This post is from the UXCEL course.
There’s a reason why healthy ecological products mostly use green packaging. Or why do athletes in red uniforms appear more confident and win more often? Or why do you become more relaxed and serene among lush green in a park after a long, hard day? Why does it happen, and how does color work?
A color is a powerful tool people use for communicating, stimulating action, influencing mood, and even modifying behavior. It can affect our performance and consumer behavior, increase appetite, cause anxiety, or, oppositely, soothe emotions. However, while some colors evoke universal associations, people may still react differently due to their memories, culture, and current environment.
Understanding different color connotations will help you be more careful while selecting colors for your next design project, marketing campaign, living room paint colors, or even a new car.
Although our experience and cultural backgrounds can influence personal color perception, most colors of the yellow hue still come off as the happiest and stand for joy, warmth, and optimism for many of us.
What other characteristics do people associate with yellow?
- Energetic: People often perceive yellow as a burst of excitement, energy, and positivity. It tends to cheer you up and encourage action. No wonder marketers use yellow in advertisements to grab viewers’ attention and increase confidence.
- Irritating: Highly saturated yellow can create a tense and irritating environment, while dirty yellow may appear obnoxious and repulse people. To avoid such feelings in your designs, stick to the cheery warm yellow that people associate with summer, sunflowers, apricots, baby chickens, and sunbeams.
Avoid using yellow for a background that can cause severe eyestrain and hurt readability.
Now take a moment and think of an orange fruit. Imagine its tough, shiny bright skin and refreshing citrus taste. What feelings does it call to your mind?
For many people, orange is associated with bursts of excitement and enthusiasm. Like yellow and red, it draws attention and sparks energetic vibes. That’s why many sports teams use orange for their uniforms, mascots, and branding.
Orange is also described as a warm and cozy color that brings back to memory Halloween, autumn, pumpkin pies, sweet potatoes, carrots, and ginger cats.
In design, orange can be used to draw attention or alert users.
Looking at the image of the color blue for this practice, how blue does it make you feel? The expression “feel blue” exists for a reason. Shades of blue hue often create the feeling of distance, coldness, loneliness, and sadness.
Remarkably, the nearly monochromatic palette of blues and blue greens in Pablo Picasso’s paintings defined the artist’s Blue Period (1901-1904) — his hard time of emotional and financial insecurity.
Avoid using pale, low-saturated blue for CTA buttons.
Water makes up nearly 70% of our bodies, which explains the deep biological connection of our body and mind with water. Simply staring at the bluish-green colors of the sea, ocean, lake, or just a swimming pool causes an increase of neurochemicals that make us feel calmer, happier, and more relaxed.
However, clear skies can become stormy, and calming sea waves can rage. Deep blue and greens can come off strong, powerful, and energetic, and even evoke awe.
Although white takes only 15th place in the ranking of favorite colors among adults, it’s an outright winner for evoking a quiet, peaceful atmosphere in living rooms and bedrooms. Furthermore, it’s the best option for creating a healthy working environment in offices and conference rooms.
Blue and green are perfect colors for meditation and yoga apps and websites.
Many of us associate the color blue with serenity and tranquility. However, blue is also one of the most trustworthy colors as it’s primarily associated with positive and non-threatening things, like a clear sky or clean water. That’s why banks or insurance companies often leverage this color to project an aura of security and trust in their branding and marketing.
Like blue, green is a color of nature and also signifies safety and peace — think of green on traffic lights.
Brown — the color of solid ground — also brings a sense of security, resilience, and safety. However, like many dark colors, brown can be associated with negative emotions and should be used sparingly.
Red is often considered a color of winners. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, contestants of 4 combat sports (boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling) were randomly assigned to wear a red or blue uniform. Scientists from the University of Durham in England found that athletes wearing red won 55% of the time.
Although some scientists are skeptical about those findings, the stimulating power of red is undeniable. Being exposed to red can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. More than that, red enhances metabolism and appetite. That explains why your mouth waters each time you pass by a McDonald’s restaurant or see an advertising banner.
Other warm colors like yellow or orange also evoke motivation and enthusiasm for life and action.
Red, yellow, and orange are great colors for promoting food delivery apps and websites.
Color affects our mood, but can it influence our mental health? Researchers at the Aalborg University of Copenhagen conducted an experiment observing the brain activity of blindfolded participants being exposed to different colors of light. Red light stimulates people’s brains, while green light yields relaxation and tranquillity.
Another study showed the calming effects of the color blue. Greens and blues symbolize nature and tend to make people feel serene, peaceful, and relaxed. Notably, the research conducted at the University of Exeter showed that people who live by the sea lead happier lives. Having the opportunity to look at large water areas whenever they want prevents many people from experiencing mental disorders.
Light blues and greens can be the right base color for health institution websites or apps.
You rarely find purple in nature, so it’s commonly associated with mysterious, spiritual, and divine substances. The binary properties of purple — the combination of intense, stimulating red and calming, tranquil blue — encourage imagination and boost creativity.
Notably, purple dye was very rare and extremely expensive in ancient times. Because only rich individuals could afford such costly goods, this color became the symbol of both wealth and royalty.
The color pink immediately brings to mind feminine and girly things, as well as Valentine’s Day, love, and romance. Surprisingly, pink possesses calming, tranquil qualities. In contrast to red, it soothes rather than stimulates and can often be used for caring and nurturing purposes.
The phenomenon of the Drunk-Tank Pink, also known as Baker-Miller Pink or Schauss pink, claims that this particular tone of pink helps lower the heart rate, pulse, and respiration. Prisoners placed in cells with pink-painted walls at the Naval correctional facility demonstrated a reduction of hostile, violent, or aggressive behavior.
Other experiments, though, at the Santa Clara County Jail, proved the opposite. The positive effect took place during only the first month of exposure to the color, but then rose after that.
If we ask you to name the first color that comes to your mind when you hear the word “angry,” you’re likely to say “red.” Among many cultures, red stands for blood, fire, anger, and even rage. Notably, the expression “see red” is based on our physical reaction when we’re furious — the blood pressure rises, making our face and neck turn red.
Red is fantastic for warnings and drawing attention but use this color thoughtfully to avoid negative connotations.
Red is one of the problematic colors for color-blinded people, so don’t rely on it solely to inform users and accompany it with labels whenever possible.
Shades of red and orange color ranges are the most contradictory. On the one hand, they stand for warmth and love, as well as passion, energy, and desire. On the other hand, these colors represent power, aggressiveness, violence, and danger.
Being one of the most visible colors in the color spectrum makes red a winner when it comes to grabbing attention. A red traffic light, warning or stop sign does more than inform people; it warns them of a looming threat.
Orange, on the other hand, is often described as bright, happy, and uplifting. However, a by-product of red and yellow, highly saturated orange can appear fierce, aggressive, and even vulgar.
Brown is a down-to-earth color that appears grounded and authentic. Like the color blue, brown embodies security and protection.
Depending on how dark and rich the color is, brown symbolizes wood or earth in feng shui.
Using brown in web and interior design creates a great sense of support and trust. Such companies as UPS, Hershey’s, Cotton, Edy’s, J.P. Morgan, and M&Ms use brown in their branding and marketing strategies to signify strong relations, reliability, and dependability.
Don’t go overboard with brown, though. Many people describe it as reserved, conservative, and even boring.
- The Impact of the Color Yellow on Your Mood | Verywell Mind
- How Does Orange Influence Your Moods? | Verywell Mind
- Blue Mind science proves the health benefits of being by water | Quartz
- How White Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors | Verywell Mind
- Why Blue Is the World’s Favorite Color | Artsy | Artsy
- Study: Red Is the Color of Olympic Victory | NPR.org
- Use these colors to make your home more comforting | Curbed
- People who live by the sea are happier than those who don’t | Her.ie | Her.ie
- Baker-Miller pink – Wikipedia
- How Does the Color Red Impact Your Mood and Behavior? | Verywell Mind
- How Does the Color Brown Affect Your Mood? | Verywell Mind