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Colour Psychology

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What is Colour?

In physical terms, colour is what is emitted from an object when light reflects off it. In design, colour can be measured visually by the saturation, hue, value and chromaticity. A colour can evoke a specific reaction from a target audience. A colour scheme is a combination of colours used in a design. If the colour scheme is too complex, featuring many different colours, then the viewer might become over stimulated and reject the design. Visual balance is super important and it is harder to achieve with a lot of colours. Most designers stick to two or three colours within their work.

Why is Colour Psychology Important?

Colour psychology is extremely valuable knowledge to have if you are in the design industry or marketing industry. People interpret their environment and the world around them through colour. Whether it’s a baby being stimulated by colours or an adult, colour has a powerful psychological effect on our brain, whether we know it or not. When used correctly, colour can have a memorable effect on our brain. When you think about the colours yellow and red, what business do you think of? The majority of people would say McDonald’s.

Colour Meanings:

Different colours reflect different meanings and convey different emotion and reactions. Understanding how different colours create different emotional responses is extremely important in the design and marketing industry. A product or service that is fun and joyful should not be represented with dark and gloomy colours. Read on to find out what different colours evoke different emotional responses. It is important to remember that colours can mean different things in different places of the world, so not every country has the same interpretations of colour.

  • Red – has a number of different connotations. For example, red can represent romance, love and passion but on the other hand, it can also portray feelings of anger, violence and danger. This is why it is important to use the colour red carefully. A lot of warning signs are in red as it is bold so draws attention to the dangers. Red is also known to enhance metabolism and boost energy. In Asia, red represents luck and in Latin America, red typically has connotations of Christianity.
  • Orange – is a bright and bubbly colour. It has connotations of warmth and joy. Using this colour in design can uplift viewers and give them a sense of energy. It also offers a sense of enthusiasm and optimism. It is a combination of the heat of red and the joy of yellow. This colour is often used in youthful and energetic designs.
  • Yellow – reflects happiness, cheeriness, optimism and energy. It also boosts enthusiasm and confidence. It is typically thought of to represent sunflowers, summer, happiness and smiles. However, in the Middle East, yellow represents mourning, so using this colour within the correct demographic is important.
  • Green – represents harmony and health. This colour can help revitalise our minds and body whilst balancing our emotions. Green is typically seen to represent health and well-being brands. It also reflects the idea of the environment. It is common for environmentally friendly companies or campaigns to use the colour green. In Ireland, green is considered the colour of luck.
  • Turquoise – creates a feeling of tranquility. It can stabilise emotions and create empathy and compassion. It is a very peaceful colour which can improve concentration. It can also be spiritual as it is such a calming and cool colour.
  • Blue – can create a feeling of trust and loyalty. It is calming, peaceful and relaxing. It can make the target audience feel reassured and secure. Blue can also have connotations of sadness and cold, especially a pale blue.
  • Purple – represents spirituality and imagination, as well as royalty and luxury. A dark purple tends to give off mysterious and magical vibes whereas light purple can reflect lightheartedness and romance. In some parts of Europe, a paler purple can represent death and mourning. This reiterates the fact that research must be done before jumping into a design project.
  • Pink – is a romantic colour. Often used for feminine Valentines Day products and services. It has red undertones without the harshness, giving it a soft feel to love. It is a comforting and compassionate colour, perhaps offering sympathy. Pink is also known to be a nostalgic colour, reminding people of their childhood.
  • Brown – gives a sense of stability and reliability. It is full of wisdom and honesty, helping people feel grounded to Earth. Representing the simple things in life, brown has connotations of wilderness and nature.
  • Black – emits feelings of power and sophistication. It can be an intimidating colour if used boldly, creating a sense of authority. It can also refer to elegance and sexiness. For example, a black tie event is a formal and sophisticated event where people typically wear black to look elegant or professional. On the other hand, in some parts of Europe, black represents mourning and death, as it is a colour most worn at funerals.
  • Grey – is a neutral colour. It can be seen as stable, calming and reliable. However it does carry negative connotations, representing loss, depression or sorrow.
  • White – represents purity and innocence. It can balance all colours on the colour wheel. It offers hope and clarity as well as making a piece of work look refreshing and pure. It can help people feel open minded and cause self reflection.


Understanding the meaning of different colours and how they can evoke different reactions is key in design and marketing. Certain colours work well together and create an aesthetically pleasing piece of work, however a design that has loads of bright colours can be over stimulating for the viewer and loose their interest. This is why referring back to the colour wheel and taking into consideration the meanings behind each colour is vital. Creating a visual balance is harder to achieve when multiple colours are being used, so usually keeping it simple is best.