More On Color
The following discussion on the effects of color gives an overview to keep in mind when creating and designing websites, logos, and other graphic images in relation to your small business. Remember, nothing is set in stone so to speak, because the effects of colors alter depending on social influences as well as adjacent, complimentary, and/or contrasting colors, but awareness of their effects can be helpful in developing your business image.
A discussion on the positive and negative effects of color by Noel Forte
April 16, 2012. (Works cited below).
Everywhere in the world, people see colors. At home, in school, at stores, and even at restaurants, there are many different colors. You may have already realized that colors make a great impact on our lives, but you may not know how it actually affects you. All colors can affect a person’s mental and psychological state of being.
People use color to express different personalities, feelings, and preferences. (Warrender 17) The colors you wear can make a person think differently of you. When wearing bright colors, people will feel it is easier to approach you. When you are wearing black or brown, they will take you more seriously. If you are wearing really light or “floofly” colors, as Anne Whitehurst calls them, people will take you for a carefree or “un-serious” person. Natural colors will make you unreadable. Even different makeup colors can make people view you differently. (Whitehurst) “That intentional use of color creates an illusion.”(Whitehurst)
A color can bring about an effect in different ways. One way is through association. In association, we connect certain colors with a feeling, an object, or an event in our past. (Miller) These connections then bring about past feelings or ideas. Sometimes it makes us feel good or bad about a certain color.
An example would be the color black. Black has been associated with death, darkness, and decay. Being exposed to too much of this color can make a person feel gloomy. (Warrender 16) In some instances, the feelings that colors create causes us to make associations with that color. An example would be the color yellow. People associate the color yellow with happiness and energy, but yellow does actually make people feel optimistic and enthusiastic about life. (The Color of Yellow)
Red has been associated with anger, vitality, and love. (Color Psychology) It is also associated with excitement and physical power. (Warrender 14) “In Eastern cultures such as China red is the color for good luck. Although times are changing and many Chinese brides now wear white, red is traditionally the color for weddings.” (The Color Red)
Different shades and tones of red have different connotations. One example is pink which has been associated with true feelings of love. (Color Psychology) A maroon red is thought of a softer color that is not as explosive or dramatic as pure red. Its associations are more subtle. Burgundy, which is a darker red, is associated to seriousness. It also is seen as a color that is more sophisticated than actual red. A bright, playful red, such as scarlet is seen as more playful than pure red. (The Color Red)
Orange represents harvest, autumn, adventure, and social communication. It is the color of harvest and autumn because the leaves on trees turn orange during the fall. (Psychology of Orange) The color is also adventurous because it brings about the feelings of optimism and new beginnings. Social communication is related to this color because orange has a physical effect of being stimulating and helping people think. (The Color Orange)
Other versions of orange include peach, dark orange, and burnt orange. Peach has the same characteristics as orange, but is not as intense and is more subtle. Dark orange has some negative connotations such as being too self-confident and ambitious. Burnt orange, just as dark orange, has been related to some negative characteristics. These include pride and tension. (The Color Orange)
Yellow is usually related with sunlight and the sun. (Warrender 14) It also represents happiness, fun, and energy. Even though yellow is a happy color, dark yellow can represent depression and disorder. Citrine yellow, which is a bit orange, is seen as a fickle, fluctuating color. (The Color Yellow)
Yellow has also been considered as a fast paced color. Because of this, people who are stressed and have very crammed schedules tend to dislike the color. Some may even find that this color will aggravate them when they are stressed. (The Color Yellow) According to Anne Whitehurst, “Clinically depressed people don’t like the color yellow until they get better.” (Whitehurst)
Green represents nature, growth, the outdoors, and spring. (The Color Green) It has a strong connection with nature, plants, harmony, and safety. (Color Psychology; and Warrender 15) On the negative side, green is also usually used to represent money and wealth. This causes people to sometimes see green as something greedy and selfish. (The Color Green)
Dark green has an association with death and decay, causing it to sometimes bring about a morbid or bad feeling. (Color Psychology) Dark green is the shade of green that is most commonly associated with money. A light, pale green usually represents immaturity and childishness. Lime green is like pale green, but is considered more playful and intense. (The Color Green)
Blue is the color of the sky and is usually related to sleeping because it is also the color of the night sky. (Color Psychology) It is associated with wisdom because the color helps us think and concentrate. (The Color Blue) It is also used to represent sadness because too much blue can calm you down and sometimes make you depressed. A darker blue is used to represent responsibility and has an air of collectiveness about it, but this color can represent someone who withholds their emotions from others. (The Color Blue)
Purple is the color of royalty and is associated with royalty and dignity. (Warrender 15) It is sometimes used to represent psychic powers. (Color Psychology) According to Miller, “Most people associate the color with children and giggling.” (Miller) Lilac, which is a kind of faded or pale purple, is associated with immaturity and youthfulness. Sometimes light purple and lavender are used to represent these characteristics. (The Color Purple and The Color Violet)
Brown is associated with the earth and home. (Color Psychology) It has also been related to security, stability, and the family unit. Other shades of brown have been associated to different human characteristics. Light brown is used to show honesty, truth, and friendliness while dark brown is a bit more depressing and sad, but at times it is seen as a prudent and wise color. (The Color Brown)
White is used to show cleanliness and purity. It has also been associated to peace, innocence, and simplicity. (The Color of White) “Many people use white as a recall of their youth and innocence. It reminds them of a time when their lives were easier and less complicated.” (The Color of White)
Gray usually represents indifference and independence because it is neither white nor black. Some people see it as neutral, but also depressing color. (The Color of Gray) It is associated with loneliness, and most people think of it as a negative color. (Color Psychology)
Sometimes people associate colors with other senses. We sometimes describe these colors as a feeling of touch, such as “rough” or “smooth” color. According to Chipp, people can even relate a color to taste and smell. (Chipp 154)
With all of these different associations, people use them to instill a certain idea or feeling into us. They use colors in such a way to make us respond in a favorable reaction. (Chipp 153) As stated earlier, the color a person wears affects how others see and view them. If a person wears completely black, they will be seen as gloomy. If they only wear some black, they will be taken as serious. Then, if a person wears a yellow dress, they will be viewed as a happy, outgoing person.
Colors can bring about an effect in a more direct manner. (Chipp 154) Sometimes it is caused by different wavelengths. Red has the longest wavelength, so it might take longer for people to identify it. This may cause people to look longer at you if you are wearing red. (Miller)
When a person sees a color, the sensory organs may transfer the data to not only the brain, but also the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, which is part of the endocrine system, can send messages to the rest of the body to react to that color. This way colors can have both a physical and psychological effect on a person. The two effects are interconnected. (Color Psychology)
One such example is the color red. Red has been known to be able to make a person feel touchy and easily irritable, but it can also excite and encourage a response from someone. The color has been related to anger, vitality, and ambition. (Color Psychology) According to Warrender, “Red is a color that stimulates a response and creates an atmosphere of assertion and strength.” (Warrender 14)
Physically, this color can cause the adrenal glands to activate. The adrenalin can boost a person’s vitality and activate the flight or fight reflex. It is this reflex that can make a person feel stronger and more courageous or even make you feel more paranoid or irritable. (Color Psychology) The stimulation of the adrenal glands can also boost your metabolism and make you feel hungrier. (The Color Red)
The color orange stimulates and helps the digestive system and can make the immune system stronger. (Color Psychology) This color also encourages us to speak more to others and socialize. (The Color Orange) “Orange makes people want to eat more. Almost all fast food places have some kind of orange inside the building” (Whitehurst) Other than making people eat more, orange is also an antidepressant, gives people a feeling of self worth, and relieves feelings of pity. (Color Psychology)
According to Miller it also makes people feel more motivated and stimulated to do different things. (Miller) Since there is yellow in orange, it also helps us think a bit more. (The Color of Orange)
“Yellow has been proven to stimulate the brain”. (Color Psychology) The color yellow makes a person feel more awake, alert, and energetic. (The Color Yellow) There have been some recent studies where they had groups of people in different colored rooms. In the experiment, it showed that people who spent more time in a yellow room were more active than people in the other rooms. (Miller)
Not only does yellow make us more alert, but yellow also makes us think clearer, and it brings about feelings of self confidence. (Color Psychology) This has a negative effect, though. It makes people look too much at the world. This encourages or gives people more of an opportunity to be more critical of themselves and others. (The Color Yellow)
On the good side of analyzing the world, yellow is happy and uplifting, which causes people to be optimistic and see the good side of life and the world. (Color Psychology) Studies show that people who spent more time in a room with yellow walls were more active than people in different rooms. (Miller)
Green is associated with and brings about the feeling of relaxation. It has a calming effect that can make a person feel safer and more relaxed. (Miller) The color also causes muscles to relax and loosen up. (Color Psychology) Because green can help calm and dispel a person’s nerves, theaters have “greenrooms” for the actors and actresses to get ready in. The green helps them be mentally ready and confident enough to cast the show. (Warrender 15) Even though green is a calming color, sometimes it can have negative effects. A dark green can depress people because of its association with death and decay. (Color Psychology)
The color blue has a physical affect that is opposite to red. Instead of exciting a person, it calms them down like the color green. Blue seems to have an effect on the thyroid gland, and dark blues seem to help us regulate our sleeping patterns. (Color Psychology) Blue can also increase your imagination and bring about clear thinking such as how yellow can. (Miller) Even though the color blue has positive affects, too much of it or really dark blue colors can cause depression and make you feel down. (Color Psychology)
Purple is an interesting color. It has been used to help people with mental disorders because it has a soothing affect on the mind. It relieves people of feelings relating to their fears and obsessions. Purple even helps people suppress hunger. (Color Psychology) Light purple can relieve stress by making a person feel more carefree. (Miller) Vast quantities of purple can be very distracting and stressful on the eyes. (Warrender 15)
Brown is another calming color, but its effects rely more on making people cozy. “Studies from Pantone found that people feel cozy when they see the shade.” (Miller) Brown is a neutral color that can create a feeling of both coolness and warmth at the same time. Unlike purple, brown is a calming color on the eyes. (Warrender 15) Brown brings about a feeling of security and safety. (Color Psychology)
Black can affect a person in positive and negative ways. It can make a person feel independent, sophisticated, and empowering. (Miller) When wearing black, others will take you more seriously because you will seem more serious. (Whitehurst) Too much black, though, can make a person feel depressed and morbid. (Warrender 16)
Just like black, white can have both positive and negative effects depending on the quantity a person is exposed to. On the good side, white can make people feel at peace, (Miller) and gives the idea and feeling that everything is in order. (Warrender 15) White can even affect our perspective of a room. If it is very white, it makes us feel as though there is more space in the room. (Color Psychology) This feeling also gives an air of freedom.
According to Miller, “The University of Georgia study also found that the color white makes us feel hopeful about the future.” (Miller) This affect is what causes white to be seen as a “new clean slate”. (The Color White) Pure snow white makes things feel cleaner and newer. When used to decorate buildings and houses, white promotes good hygiene and cleanliness. (Warrender 15)
On the other hand, white can bring about some unfavorable feelings of despair and loneliness. (The Color White) Since white is so “clean”, it can make places feel empty and barren. This illusion and feeling creates an atmosphere and environment that looks and feels very isolated and empty. (Color Psychology) People in this type of atmosphere and environment may experience feelings of loneliness and emptiness. This affect will then slowly cause people to feel depressed.
Gray is a strange color because it is both white and black, but neither at the same time. Gray does not have a big impact on human emotion, and it varies depending on how light or dark the particular shade is. (Bear) When it is light gray, it is more calming and peaceful. When it is dark gray, it gives a feeling of seriousness just like the color black. (The Color Gray) Light gray leans towards the effects of white, while dark gray leans toward the effects of black, but neither of the two shades has the complete effect of either white or black. The color also gives us a feeling of indecisiveness. (The Color Grey)
Companies and corporations usually take advantage of the effects colors have on people. They decorate places and use different types of lighting to make us respond in certain ways. Since some colors, such as blue, can help us focus more, business associates and CEOs will take advantage of this and put these colors in their buildings or employees’ work spaces to make them work more. (Whitehurst) Microsoft even uses the focusing effects of blue in their products, such as Microsoft Word. When writing a document, the default background of Microsoft Word is blue which causes people to focus and write more.
Some buildings would use light green or blue tinted walls or carpets to make us feel calmer and more relaxed. This calming and relaxing feeling will then cause us to feel safe, and hence, making us stay longer. Sometimes bars would put an oddly matched red to go with the blue or green to also make us spend more money. (Whitehurst)
Many restaurants and fast food places take advantage of the colors orange and red. They use light tints of these colors in their buildings, and they sometimes decorate with orange or red objects to make people fall into their trap. Both of these colors, red and orange, makes us hungrier and increases our needs to buy more food. To help them even more, red’s stimulating and exciting effects makes us want to spend more money. (Whitehurst)
Even though each color makes us respond in certain way, different groups and combinations of colors can change our perspectives. Complimentary color groups, such as red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange, can increase the intensity or excitement of those colors. At times, the conflicting colors can even cause people to bicker. (Whitehurst)
Cultural differences can change or create feelings and ideas that some people may share about a certain group of colors. People of different culture may not notice or even share in the feelings created. (Whitehurst) According to Anne Whitehurst, “Some people may like red, white, and blue. Other people might find it disturbing.” (Whitehurst)
In this example, Americans associate the colors red, white, and blue with the flag and will share in the feeling of nationalism. They may even find these colors appealing, but to others these colors may seem like an unappealing combination of colors. Some extremists might even find that this group of colors arouse feelings of hate and detest because for some reason, whatever it might be, they hate the United States of America. (Whitehurst)
In art and paintings, the quantity, shade, surrounding colors, and type of stroke can change the intensity of the effects of colors. Some colors help increase or decrease the effects of other colors next to it by cancelling each other out. The quantity and the stroke will change how a person views a color by hinting towards one of the color’s many effects or associations. (Whitehurst)
Since, blue has both a calming and depressing effect, (Color Psychology) artists can use their techniques to make blue have an extremely calming and serene effect or use it to create a very sad and depressing atmosphere for us when we look at the artwork. (Whitehurst)
No matter where you are, the affects of colors will always affect you in either a good or bad way. Many colors can make a person feel good about their self, but may also cause them to feel negative at the same time. Both the positive and the negative feelings are brought about by either memory or the direct affect of the color on your brain or even both. Even though the effect varies from color to color and shade to shade, all colors make a difference in our world and in our lives. There is virtually no way to ever escape the many effects colors have on our mind and body.
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Chipp, Herschel. Theories of Modern Art Berkeley, Los Angeles, and England. University of CA
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Miller, Korin. “9 Colors that Give You a Mood Boost” Cosmopolitan. February 2012. 144-145.
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