What do colours mean?
Did you know that the human eye can detect more shades of green than any other colour? That’s because back when we were swinging around in the trees, it was important for us to be able to distinguish many different types of plants from each other in order for us to survive. Although this evolutionary development has become somewhat obsolete today, our ability to differentiate colours and their meaning is still a huge part of our lives.
Colour has a massive impact on how we react towards people, ideas and objects and can also have cultural, religious and political significance. This is why understanding what different colours mean is so important in the fields of marketing and design.
How Colours Make You Feel
Most, if not all colours have some kind of emotional significance tied to them. Green means go, red means stop, blue is sadness and pink is feminine. These are all subconscious associations that we make regarding colour that are a result of the cultures that we’ve been raised in. There isn’t just one meaning for any given colour and a lot of it is dependant on context, but here is a list of some of the primary colours and their corresponding emotional responses.
Blue: Security, Trust Worthy, Stability, Loyalty, Wisdom, Confidence, Trust, Friendliness, Preservation, Courage, Science.
Green: Wealth, Money, Calming, Environment, Ambition, Endurance, Healing, Calm, Generosity, Nature, Completion, and Protection.
Red: Energy, Power, Vigor, Leadership, Courage, Passion, Activity, Joy.
Yellow: Optimism, Childish, Freshness, Law, Education, Arrogance.
Pink: Romantic, Feminine, Love, Beauty.
Orange: Cheerful, Passion, Pleasure, Enthusiasm, Fascination, Creativity, Fun.
Black: Powerful, Mysterious, Elegance, Sophistication, Functionality.
As you can see, a lot can be communicated with colour, and communication is the key to marketing and design.
How Brand's Use Colour
Colour is a powerful communication tool that can be used to quickly convey an idea, attitude or story without having to say a single word. Brands have been using it for years to quickly sum up their core values. Here’s some examples of some popular brands and what their colours mean.
Perhaps the most recognisable brand colouring in the world, Coca Cola’s red logo and branding represent warmth, passion, energy, and joy.
Ford’s distinctive blue logo represents efficiency, trust, science, and confidence.
Apple’s monochrome branding is sleek and efficient. The black, white and grey of it’s logo represent wisdom, sophistication, simplicity and purity.
Colour's Meaning Can Always Change
While certain colours may have a certain impact or elicit a certain emotional response from you, the result may be entirely different from someone on the other side of the world. Similarly, colours can have different impacts on people depending on their situation, the political climate, their religion, or for a million other different reasons. Colour meaning is dependent on context, and meaning is always subject to change.
It’s hard to imagine today but pink was once a masculine colour. Some believe that it became feminine after World War II when women who worked in the factories during the war wanted their daughters to embody the masculine values they had adopted by dressing them in this masculine colour. Marketers caught on and started using pink for girls toys and products and the rest is history.
The point is that colour meaning is always evolving and designers and marketers should never feel constrained by the current emotions and meanings that are tied to certain colours. Experimenting and going against the grain can help create entirely new meanings and help a brand stand out against competition.
Making Colour Work For You
According to research, colour is by far the most influential factor in a person’s judgement about a brand or design piece. People make their subconscious judgements about people, places and things within a very short time-frame and most of that judgement is made on colour alone. This is why colour is so important in marketing and design. Making your brand standout is the best way to get noticed because people tend to remember things that make an impression.
In order to make something stand out it has to involve colours that compliment each other. Colours are accented by other colours that exist opposite to them on the colour wheel and when you put them together it will have a noticeable affect on people’s reactions. As you can see in the image, some of the biggest brands in the world use complimentary colours to create logos that are eye catching and exciting.
Colour is the silent communicator that influences our reactions to things every day. People still don’t fully understand the role that colour plays in shaping our emotional responses but we do know that it shifts and changes with the times. Whenever you’re undertaking any kind of marketing or design work, always put finding the right colour first on your priority list.