Humans are visual creatures. We’re attracted to, or repelled by color, light and imagery. In the case of branding, marketing and graphic design, the psychology of color plays a key role in decision making.
Color psychology is used in branding, marketing and graphic design where it is viewed as an important emotional influencing factor. For example companies use color when determining brand identity and logos. The color is matched to the personality of the brand as a way of attracting customers to the product or service, such as the red and white used in Coca-Cola’s branding. Research has shown that warm colors elicit certain responses whereas cooler colors are more favorable, this is known as color theory.
What is Color Psychology?
Color psychology is defined as “the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior” In a broader sense it’s the reasoning behind why applying certain colors elicits certain behavioural responses in human beings. Conversely, color theory is “defined is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination”.
Color theory originally formulated in the 18th century in three ‘primary’ colors (red, yellow and blue or RYB), colors which were capable of mixing all other colors. During the 19th century industrial chemistry expanded the color range of lightfast synthetic pigments, allowing for three-color printing to become economically and technologically feasible in mass printed media. Color theory was adapted to primary colors most effective in inks or photographic dyes; cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY). In today’s technologically advanced printing market it has become very easy to use specific hues of color to elicit certain responses in human behavior.
How Do Colors Influence People?
Color is a powerful psychological tool used to create or elicit certain feelings. A form of nonverbal communication, color is subconsciously assessed before the conscious mind acknowledges it. By using color psychology you can send specific messages to consumers, create feelings of warmth or elicit actions through feelings of energy. While we know how people respond to color stimuli differs individual to individual there are some common conceptions about color that marketers typically draw upon when making color based decisions.
"Different colors are perceived to mean different things. People who are cold prefer warm colors (red and yellow) while people who are hot lean towards cool colors such as blue and green". -Color Psychology: A Critical Review
The chart below gives perceived meanings of different colors in the United States. Functional (F): fulfills a need or solves a problem, Sensory-Social (S): conveys attitudes, status, or social approval (Bottomley, P.A and Doyle, J.R. 2006).
HubSpot recently conducted a button color test finding that a red CTA outperformed a green CTA button by 21%. With the application of the psychology of color across many industries, it’s clear that in branding, marketing and graphic design there is great value in the strategic ability to alter a consumers engagement with a brand through the application of color.