Connecting with Colors


This weekend I sat down to catch up on some reading and something caught my eye. The covers on several of my magazines had strikingly similar color combinations.

Was this a seasonal thing? It is winter after all. Maybe that’s why the editors of Fortune, Inc. and Money all chose a clear blue for their covers in December (Inc. and Money) and February (Fortune). What about the bright yellow font? Why that particular shade?

I’m not personally acquainted with the editors of these publications so I haven’t asked them what motivated these choices, but it’s probably not as much of a coincidence as you might think.

There’s a great deal of psychology behind color choices. Color can be used to inspire certain feelings, to create a sense of calm or even agitate people, making them uneasy or inciting them to action.

Before you dismiss this as the province of designers and decorators, consider the impact color has on you personally. Do you have a calming blue bedroom? A red sportscar? A neutral wardrobe?

What about your workspace? Does the color there energize your employees or lull them to sleep? Does your reception area feel antiseptic like a hospital or welcoming like a spa?

Psychology Today reports that “Color preferences are deeply rooted emotional responses that seem to lack any rational basis, yet the powerful influence of color rules our choices in everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to the cars we buy.

Interestingly, color preferences and the feelings color evoke can vary based on cultural norms, popular fashion and feedback from peers. Take orange, which has been everywhere in the past year. It’s currently a popular color, but back in the 80s mauve was the color of the moment.

Pantone Radiant OrchidPantone pronounced Radiant Orchid the “Color of the Year” for 2014. This pinkish-purple hue replaces 2013’s Emerald. Surely we’ll start to see shade of purple popping up on everything from shifts to sofas in the coming months.

Understanding the basics of color theory as well as current trends can help you connect the goals of your business with the needs and aspirations of your customer, prospects and employees.

Here are a few common color concepts to keep in mind:

BLUE conveys trust, so it is often chosen by banks, consultants and other business that want to express stability and create confidence in buyers. Blue is also calming, and it is the most popular color among men. Blue is not appetizing and most people find blue food unappealing.

RED whets the appetite, making it popular for food brands. It also stimulates blood flow and heart rate, suggesting danger (blood). Attention-getting red has stopping power, which can help with conveying messages and about safety or important points in copy.

GREEN means money, of course, but it also brings to mind nature and growth, like fresh green leaves or sprouting grass. Green is commonly seen on heath-related brands because of these natural connections. Green can be calming and implies balance, as it sites in the center of the color spectrum.

YELLOW is a polarizing color. Bright shades have the capacity to lift our spirits, inspiring cheerful feelings, while darker shades can be seen as depressing and oppressive. Yellow suggests caution while also being upbeat, so it’s use require care and attention to surrounding colors.

PURPLE is royal, religious and offbeat. Aiming to be seen as different? Choose purple. This color also suggests high quality, especially in deeper shades. If you’re looking for a spiritual connection or want to elevate your brand to an elite level, consider dark purple as an alternative to blue.

Want to learn more? Check out this article on the Psychological Properties Of Colours.

You might also enjoy this infographic on How Color Affects Purchases from Kissmetrics.

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