Can Branding Color the Way We Think?
“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” Claude Monet
Unless you are a design professional, you may never have consciously considered the way in which color affects our perceptions of a product or place. Think of the calming effect that being beside the ocean and under a clear, blue sky can have on the soul. Or the way that fast food outlets often furnish their diners with orange chairs in an attempt to get their customers to order quickly, eat fast and vacate the premises.
Color is all around us and, whether we realize it or not, can profoundly affect our mood, our behavior and our buying preferences.
Your products and your brand rely on color to send clear messages of who you are as a business to your clients and competitors. This includes the colors on your website, your business cards and the clothes that you wear.
The psychology of color for products and branding
The psychology of color is big business. Colorists predict seasonal trends for fashion and furnishings. Paint manufacturers mix colors to influence our décor. Hair stylists suggest hair colors and complementary makeup. Businesses employ psychologists for advice on anything from the color of the office flooring to the colors on the company stationery.
If you are starting up a new business or are thinking of becoming self-employed, then you will need to think very carefully about your branding and the kind of impression that you want to achieve.
First, let’s look at the psychology of the seven colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
Red is the color of danger, of warning, of power. It’s the only color known to increase the respiration rate and raise blood pressure! It’s often associated with romance and passion, with love hearts and lipstick. According to this article, red also has the power to warp the mind.
Cheerful orange is the color of warmth and happiness. It radiates joy. It can elicit strong reactions: some people love it while others hate it. It can also symbolize life and energy due to its association with fruit: oranges, tangerines and clementines. Orange works best when it’s used sparingly to provide a pop of color in an otherwise more subdued palette.
“Orange is the happiest color.” Frank Sinatra
Yellow is the color of sunshine. Its warm and vibrant glow can light up a room. However, yellow is also associated with cowardice and sickness. Of all the rainbow colors, yellow tires the eye more rapidly and, in large quantities, it can make people feel irritable and argumentative.
“How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.” Vincent Van Gogh
Green is the color of nature, of grass and hills; of trees and foliage. It is fresh and calming, and promotes feelings of relaxation. Green can soothe the soul.
The color blue is the most popular color of all. More people name blue as their favorite color than any other. People choose blue for their cars and their clothes: many school and work uniforms are also blue. It is considered to be calming, peaceful and induces a sense of order.
“When I haven’t any blue I use red.” Pablo Picasso
Indigo is a spiritual color and denotes the higher mind. It is associated with drama and creativity. It promotes order amidst chaos. On the negative side, it can represent stubbornness and conformity.
The regal color violet (purple) is the color of luxury and nobility. Roman Emperors wore cloaks of violet cloth. It’s the color of creativity and can spark the imagination. It’s also the color of spirituality. However, dark purple can represent sadness, frustration and dark thoughts.
Black, white and gray
Black is visually heavy, as such, it lends gravitas to a design. It’s also the default color of most fonts. It is associated with strength, power and authority.
White, on the other hand, is seen as pure, light and clean. Think of white sheets and blank, white walls. Apple uses white for the majority of their products as it is modern and minimalist.
Gray is the most neutral color of all. It can be used to offset other colors and make them sing. Art galleries and clothes shops paint their interiors in gray so that the artwork and clothes can take center stage. Gray is often the first choice of architects as it is a functional, unemotional color.
Finally, let’s not overlook the more subtle, and somber, colors of black, gray and white, and the metallics: silver, bronze and gold.
For sheer luxury, upmarket brands use metallic colors to promote feelings of exclusivity and affluence. Gold imparts the most expensive look of the three, followed by silver and then copper. However, copper is currently very much in vogue for furniture and lighting, and this trend shows no signs of abating.
Just to recap the impact of color on branding, here’s a great infographic of top brand logos according to the colors they use. It’s interesting to note that two of the most well-known brands, Apple and Nike, don’t use color at all, preferring to opt for neutral white and black.
Now put the psychology of color theory into practice
So, now that you have the lowdown on the significant psychological effects that color can have on your branding, why not have a go at designing a new logo for yourself? Scribble a few ideas on paper then make a logo in minutes online. Try different colors, symbols and fonts until you get a design that truly represents your ethos and aspirations.
Now think about how the logo will look on your stationery, invoices and business cards. Does it work well in various sizes? Is it still legible when reduced to a point 9 font for example?
Designing your brand, takes time, effort and careful consideration. It is costly to rectify mistakes once you have committed a brand to paper and online. Get it right first time, and you will then have more time to spend on building your business. Pay attention to the effect color has on you and your surroundings, and choose your colors well.
In the words of John Ruskin: “The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”