Color psychology – colours and meanings
Colors effect human behavior what can be (and is) used and abused in numerous ways. This is known and applied in medicine, sport, marketing, traffic and many more or less important areas of everyday life. We can associate every color with specific mood and different energy, it’s connected with rich symbolism, but there are still too many variables to predict how, for instance, can change of package of a product effect the decisions of consumers.
The reason is simple. Our perception of colors is dependent on our environment, gender, age, experiences, religion, nationality … and of course of context of usage. Tribes living in jungle have completely different perception of different hues of green color like people raised in big cities, where green is not nearly as closely connected with survival. Or another example: while blue is in general the most popular color, it is not suitable for food package.
What does the color white mean?
White is associated with honesty, innocence, light, peace, perfection, purity and truth. It’s the color of new beginnings, suitable for births, weddings, medicine and science. It’s neutral color which can be used in combination with majority of other colors and is considered as summer color, but as the color of snow it also has cooling effect.
Negative associations of color white: being perceived more as the lack of color than color itself, it can be related with absence, boredom, sterility and is in different cultures color of death and mourning.
What does the color yellow mean?
Yellow is associated with creativity, enthusiasm, happiness, joy, glory, optimism and pleasure. It’s the color of attention, but can be irritating very soon, if used in large quantity. Apart from black and white yellow goes particularly well with blue and green (beware of different shades), but combination with red is not so good idea, because the result can be too aggressive. It is also a color of autumn and its abundance.
Negative associations of color yellow: it’s the color of envy, illness and treachery. Color yellow is also associated with anxiety and irrationality. Remember: it has the power to enhance the experience – in positive and negative ways. In marketing yellow is perceived as youthful, lighthearted, a bit irresponsible and childish. It can be, for instance, used for a sports car, but not for a limousine.
What does the color orange mean?
Orange is color of activity, attention, attraction, energy, excitement, success and youth. Being named after an evergreen tree it is also associated with fruitfullness. The name covers all colors between yellow and red in visible spectra, thus orange is associated with similar characteristics and pairs with the same colors as both os them. It is not so light as yellow and is less aggressive than red.
Negative associations of color orange: orange can be perceived as the color of deceit, flamboyance and immaturity. It’s very visible and captivating color and is often used in dangerous situations, when we want to warn or at least attract attention, like in traffic or for life jackets. Food industry love it as well. While orange is very rare color for cars, an interesting study showed used cars with this color in general lose less value than others. But the reason is probably rarity, not the orange color itself.
What does the color red mean?
Red is color of anger, courage, danger, heat, passion, sexuality and strength. Considering black and white are not ‘true colors’, it was the first color which got a name. Being the color of blood and fire, it is strongly connected with love and revolution. It’s the most popular color of flags, no mater if we count number of appearances or measure the red area of an average flag.
Negative associations of color red: it is very aggressive, strongly associated with pain, violence and war. Sport teams love it and a study from Olympic Games in 2004 clearly showed that judges in combat sports, where the final result depends of their scores, preferred competitors in red uniforms. Men find women in red dresses more attractive and redheads have more active sex life. Red increases heartbeat and stimulates appetite. It is very popular in restaurants. Being closely related to more natural brown, designers like it for the color of furniture too. It’s great in food industry, but totally wrong in courtrooms. It’s important to note, with addition of white red as the color of aggression becomes pink, the color of gentleness.
What does the color purple mean?
Popular with Emperors and bishops, purple soon achieved a reputation of royalty color. It is color of ambition, extravagance, luxury, magic, mystery, prestige and wisdom. Purple is secondary color, a mixture of red and blue and combines the strength of red with the efficiency of blue. An interesting research showed purple is by far the most popular color among pre-adolescents.
Purple also have negative connotations. It can be understood as a sign of decadence, inferiority and melancholy. Purple, if not used in right context can easily achieve too dramatic effect. Being very rare in nature purple can easily make an impression of artificiality. Definitely not the right color for presenting healthy lifestyle!
What is the difference between purple and violet? Although both colors are often used interchangeably, violet (closer to the blue wavelength) is true color which is seen in spectra of visual light, but purple (closer to the red wavelength) is only made after red and blue are blended.
What does the color blue mean?
Color blue is closely related with confidence, harmony, loyalty, patience, relaxation, tranquility and truth. It’s especially valued by its calming effect, which is tested by installing blue street lights in differen places of the world. Some report about reduction of criminal acts, but we still don’t have reliable study. Blue is favorite color of most men and women.
Blue can have negative effects in certain situations. Although the color of water and the sky, it is perceived as cold, sad, even depressing. It’s a very popular color of suits in business world, because it suggests loyalty. Hi tech companies like blue in their logos, because it is related with accuracy and reliability. It works in banking and insurance industry, but is not desirable in food industry. It is not only suppressing appetite, blue is associated with decayed foods well. It is much more preferred in cleaning industry.
What does the color green mean?
Green is the color of freshness, health, hope, permission, renewal, safety and youth. The word green (in Germanic languages) has the same root as to grow and grass, what make a strong association with nature. Medieval brides often wore green to symbolize fertility. It’s the most soothing color in visible spectra and has healing powers. It0s often used in hospitals. When the notorious Blackfriar Bridge in London was painted green, number of suicides dropped by more than 30 percent. Being the color of the banner of Muhammad, it’s the sign of respect and the most important color in Islam. Every Islamic country has some green in its flag.
Negative connotations of green: it can represent materialism and possessiveness. Green is color of jealousy and is color of envy, greed, selfishness. Green is widely associated with inexperience. It is a secondary color and can be made with mixing warm yellow with cold blue, what gives numerous different hues depending on percentage of both. Green is in the center of spectrum, thus represents balance, what makes it suitable for charities, real estates and financial industry aiming at steady growth of profits. Today it is widely used in food industry, where promotes organic products and everything environmentally friendly. Politics try to use it more and more as well.
What does the color black mean?
Black is the color of authority, boldness, control, discipline, elegance, protection and strength. It’s also the color of evil, heaviness, night and witchcraft. Having the power of hiding things it is associated with barriers, emptiness and mysteries. Black is not a true color, it’s actually a mixture of all colors, what means it absorbs all the wavelengths. People wearing black appear thinner (in right combinations and patterns), but black objects look heavier and stronger. While black symbolizes the end, every ending is closely related with new beginning, thus making black the perfect match with white. In combination with yellow or orange it’s the popular warning sign in nature (stripes of the tiger or wasp).
Black has the most of the negative connotations of all colors. It is unfriendly color, it creates fear and people wearing black seem unapproachable. They say a salesman in black can make a lot of sales but no friends. People wearing black appear conservative and serious. It’s very suitable for judges and lawyers. After series of different historical and scientific events it became the color of high fashion. Little black dress and black tie are a must in fashion savvy wardrobes. Sexy black lingerie can create the feeling of mystery in bedroom just like the similar effect is achieved at priest at the altar. Black is also the color of death and mourning.
The effect of colors is used in psychology and especially in marketing, but when we delve in history of colors, we soon realize the color psychology, with so many variables, it’s not an exact science, but rather kind of art.