Have you ever walked into a store and immediately felt drawn to a particular product, simply because of its colour? You might have noticed that fast-food restaurants often use red and yellow in their logos and branding, while luxury brands tend to opt for more mellow and sophisticated shades.
Colour psychology plays a huge role in how we perceive and respond to certain brands and designs. In fact, studies have shown that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on colour alone.
So, what is it about colour that makes it so powerful in branding and design? And how can you use colour psychology to your advantage in your own branding and design efforts?
With these questions in mind, let’s step further toward the end of the rainbow to learn more about the world of colour psychology and branding!
The Power of Colour: Understanding Colour Psychology
One of the best ways to influence emotions is through colours. Consider this, the colour of food helps you understand how it may taste. Red would indicate it’s spicy or tangy, green or lemon yellow would be a citrus taste, while pink or white might be sweet.
Colour psychology is the study of hues in relation to human behaviour.
This is why several designers and branding experts consider colour as a powerful tool to change the perception of the target audience. They have qualities that can cause people to feel certain emotions.
If applied correctly in branding, designing, and marketing, you can determine which colours to use for your packaging, logo, and visual identity, to capture your audience’s attention.
Colour Theory in Designing
Designers use colour theory almost every day to communicate with users through appealing colour schemes in visual interfaces.
Colour theory is the collection of rules and guidelines created for designers to pick the right colour every time.
You must wonder whether the colour theory is all rules, and list and list of guidelines. However, it is more than that–it encompasses a colour wheel and logical observations and knowledge collated on:
● Human optical ability
You’d know Newton to discover gravity but did you know he was also the one to discover the colour theory? He first established the colour wheel and then formed the theory.
So, the story goes, Newton related colours to be human perceptions and not the absolute qualities of wavelengths of light. Surprising for a physicist, isn’t it? Then, he systematically divided the colours into three groups:
1. Primary: Red, Yellow, and Blue
2. Secondary: A mix of the primary colours
3. Tertiary: A mix of both, primary and secondary colours
Designers apply colour theory to enhance user experience. With a proper understanding of colour theory, you can craft meaningful and practical designs for your brands.
Colour In Branding
Branding is all about humanising a brand and humans are hardwired to respond to colours. This is where brands can use colours to their advantage to relate to people.
Here are two main ways of association that help you choose the right colours in branding for your target audience to derive the intended meaning:
We are inherently capable of associating colours in the natural world with their biological attributes.
For example, the natural world – the sky, ocean, food, etc., and their biological attributes – the ripeness of the food, the dark clouds in the sky, and the prevalence of harsh weather conditions in the ocean.
Humans naturally understand and mitigate danger through some colours and also get enticed by others. We learnt them for our survival instincts back when humans were hunters and gatherers.
In fact, we have evolved to understand the biological factors that are impacted by the wavelength or frequency intervals of a colour. For example, the blue flickering light of a mobile phone makes you understand that you might have a message. The colours in a traffic signal and their flickering lights guide the movement of the vehicles.
Psychological or Cultural Association
The psychological or cultural association of colours is how we recognize colours through the means of the culture we are exposed to or the religious faith we develop.
This is why a certain brand colour palette works wonders with a certain cultural group and is congruent with the intended message for the audience.
Did you know that the colour blue in the USA has culturally masculine associations, while in China it has feminine?
A similar contradiction of the meaning of colours can be seen in France and Africa. Wherein, yellow in France denotes weakness and betrayal, while in Africa it signifies success, quality, and money.
You must have noticed how your parents refer to muted and sophisticated colours as ‘English Colours?’
We tend to associate colours with what we observe in our surroundings. An Indian brand will use warm and earthy colours. We have grown up seeing Kesar, sindoor, marigold, hibiscus, sandalwood, and more such day-to-day items. India is a tropical country– a warm country, hence, many films located in India, tend to show warm colours to establish its essence.
Similarly, brands based in the UK or the USA, tend to choose cooler colours as the culture exposes the community to them.
The British royal family are seen wearing or using muted colours such as light blue, olive green, white, brown, beige, etc. Festivals such as Halloween tend to use darker colours. Purple, white, black, and green are some Easter colours.
This is how we tend to get influenced by colours–we are either a part of the culture that chooses them repeatedly or we have grown up seeing them around us.
Mastering the Art of Color Psychology: Tips and Strategies for Using Color Effectively in Your Branding and Design
Colour plays a crucial role in branding and design. It can evoke emotions, conveys a message, and influences the way people perceive a brand or product. This is why it’s important to choose the right colours for your brand, and to use them effectively in your design.
But how do you do that? By understanding the psychological effects of different colours, you can use them to your advantage in your branding and design.
Here are some tips on how to use colour psychology in branding and design:
1. Grasp The Basics
Get started with understanding what each colour implies. If you have chosen a certain colour for your brand, know whether it is the right pick. To help you understand, here’s an example:
Colours are inspired by cultures, eras, and nature. If there is a vintage brand, you tend to choose brown, beige, violet, wine red, etc. If you are a food brand, you would go with warm colours. If royalty is the brand personality, purple would be the perfect colour.
Seasoned brands choose sophisticated colours while new brands have poppy, bright colours. A kid’s brand could choose yellow to portray enthusiasm and happiness. Similarly, if you are a tech brand with a security system as your USP, blue will help you establish trust.
2. Consider Emotions
In addition to conveying a message, colours can also be used to create a specific mood or atmosphere. For example, warm colours like red, orange, and yellow tend to be energising and stimulating, while cool colours like blue, green, and purple tend to be calming and relaxing.
By choosing the right colours, you can create the desired mood and evoke the right feelings/perceptions for your brand or product.
The colours that we associate with are the colours that we are most comfortable with.
Consider this, growing up with parents who are interested in artefacts, would influence your taste to choose vivid colours, and vintage themes. If you have grown up in the countryside, you tend to be comfortable with earthy colours.
If you study your audience well, you are sure to find their comfort space, their likes, and their dislikes. In this way, you will be able to understand and target their emotions with the help of the right colours.
3. Take inspiration from other brands
To know what is right for your brand, you should benchmark and reference other competitor brands.
Doing this exercise will help you identify what colour best suits your brand.
Colour can also be used to differentiate your brand from competitors. By choosing unique or unusual colours, you can make your brand stand out and be more memorable.
Just be sure to choose colours that align with your brand’s values and personality, and that convey the brand value.
The repetition of your colours would help you create a brand recall. The more you expose your target audience to your colour palette, the more likely they are to recognize your brand just by its colour scheme. If you see a turquoise-blue box, you will be reminded of Tiffany and Co.
Take inspiration from brands that create a strong brand recall through colours.
4. A Brand Colour Pallete Is A Must
Use different colours to convey different messages. Each colour has its meaning and associations, so it’s important to choose a combination of colours to communicate.
For example, red is often associated with passion, love, and excitement, while blue is associated with trust, calmness, and reliability. Green is often associated with nature, growth, and harmony, while purple is associated with luxury, creativity, and spirituality.
Clubbing two or more colours can help you touch upon more brand values.
5. Branding Means Consistency
The first step is to choose colours that align with your brand’s values and personality. The second step is more crucial to follow as neglecting it, would be fruitless while applying the colour strategy.
The second step is to ensure consistency in the usage of the colours through all the touch points. All the colours should be in-line with the brand.
6. Apply What You Learn From Cultural And Natural Associations
As explained before, keeping in mind the cultural and natural associations can help you put your brand in the right perspective.
Research what colour is closest to your product, service, and values, and align them with the perceptions of a community or a culture. There! You would have created the perfect colour palette.
7. Conduct A Focus Group
Now, just to be sure that your audience responds to your brand the way you want them to, conduct a focus group. Test out the visual identity with the colours in the foreground.
Yes, you may not always be able to predict how your audience will respond to colours, including their shades and tones. This is why it is best to present two ideas – two sets of colour palettes–conduct A/B testing for best results.
Less is More: The Importance of Using Color Sparingly and Consistently in Your Branding and Design
While it’s important to choose the right colours for your branding and design, it’s also important to use them sparingly and consistently.
Too many colours can be overwhelming and confusing, so it’s best to stick to a few key colours and use them consistently across all your branding and design materials. Overuse of colour can minimise its original benefit.
Less is more. This mantra will help create a cohesive and consistent brand image.
All in All
Colours are as intertwined in branding and marketing as much as they are in psychology. Of Course, the common factor in them is human behaviour and perceptions.
Through extensive study, research, and practical experience in using colours and understanding perceptions, you’ll be able to create the perfect combination of colours in palettes. Your audience will love them! Not only will you entice your buyers to your brand message, but they will be hooked for more!
Views expressed are personal.