How does a designer choose which colours to use in a design? Do they choose a set simply because they think it’s “pretty”? Visual appeal is obviously a very important part of the decision process, but as always, things are never quite as simple as they appear. What colour comes to mind when you think about fire? It’s pretty much guaranteed that you associated it with a “Hot” colour like red or orange. We’ve been conditioned to associate colours with many different feelings and ideas without even realizing it. You can bet that this plays a huge role in the way we pick colours and design. Here are a few examples,
As mentioned above, red is a “warm” or “hot” colour. The connection between the colour and the temperature is kind of obvious, but it also has a wide range of strong emotions associated with it. Some can be positive like love, passion, energy, and courage, but it can also be connected to violence, war, anger, and danger. Colour doesn’t just stop at affecting our emotions. Red is known to increase heart rates, and stimulate appetites.
Orange also falls under the family of warm colours. It’s a very energetic colour that usually feels very happy, lively and full of vitality. Less saturated versions of orange bring to mind images of autumn and spices. (Anyone up for Pumpkin pie?)
The brightest of the warm colours is yellow. Much like orange, it gives off a sense of energy and joyfulness. We associate it with things like the sun shining on a bright spring day, or the brightness of a lightbulb. However, it is also used to display caution and has connotations of deceit and cowardice.
Now we’re getting into the “cooler” colours. Green is the colour of life, nature and freshness. A product packaged in green is going to give the impression of being more organic and healthy. Bright greens can also be energetic like yellow, while the muted tones are very calming and earthy.
Blue is the coldest colour. We tend to associate blue with sadness, (feeling blue?) but it’s also very calming and relaxing. Naturally we also connect it to crisp cold water and cleanliness which makes it very refreshing. Unlike red, the calming look of blues tend to lower heart rates.
Purple has been known throughout history as the colour of royalty, which makes it a great choice for a dignified or luxurious look. It also gives the impression of creativity, magic, and spirituality.
Although not technically a colour, black still has strong associations attached to it. Black has always been seen as linked with death, evil, fear and darkness. However in most designs it can give a very formal and elegant look, like good black suit/ dress. One of the best things about designing with black is that it’s neutral and it works well alongside most colours.
Also not technically a colour, white represents purity. It’s very clean, and sanitary which makes it a popular choice for minimalist designs. Like black, it’s neutral and pairs up well with just about any colour.
As you can see colours have a wide variety of associations. It’s up to a designer to not only make something pleasing to the eye, but to also think about the emotions, feelings, and associations they want to evoke. It might sound silly, but something as simple as a colour can change everything.