Color Psychology: How Colors Affect Us and What Each One Means
The meaning of colors has a much more significant impact than we might think in our daily lives. But what is Color Psychology? How do colors influence our emotions? What does each color mean? Do colors convey different ideas or emotions in other cultures? Each of us associates certain feelings and thoughts with each unique hue. In this article, we will explore the basics of Color Psychology, look at its practical applications, and see how to use Color Psychology to your benefit.
What is Color Psychology?
Color Psychology is the study of how colors affect us. Colors can change our perception, alter our senses, excite us, and change how we react to our surroundings in unique and exciting ways. Colors have the power to improve our memory and attention and even influence us to make a specific decision. Knowing the meaning of colors can help us better understand our behavior and learn to design environments that elicit emotional states most appropriate for the space.
The influence of colors can completely change the idea we have of a specific space or element. Imagine for a moment a toy for young children. You have likely thought of a brightly colored object with strong contrasts that overflows with energy and vitality. If we think of the same toy now, but we paint it black with silver details, does it still give us the same feeling of curious youthful energy?
While there is no mandatory color code for how every object or environment should look, we are making associations between colors and the emotions and ideas they are connected to throughout our lives. We rely on what we see daily and don’t usually stop to think about it. But if we see a blue banana, orange contact lenses, or a fluorescent yellow tree by chance, we can’t help but be surprised.
Color Psychology is a field of study in continuous development. Its dominance is vital for professionals such as creatives or for companies and new products that intend to make their way in the market. Designers and architects rely on the psychology of the different colors to design clothing, cars, products, and homes that elicit pleasant reactions.
Understanding the meaning of colors can help us make better choices when buying flowers for a special occasion, choosing the ideal gift for a friend according to their personality, or feeling at ease in our home.
Colors can Influence Your Emotions and Mental State.
Our brain faces several challenges simultaneously at all times. We are subjected to many stimuli and carry out a nearly infinite number of different tasks each day. It doesn’t give us time to process everything we grasp through our senses.
Therefore, the unconscious associations we develop on such fundamental aspects of reality as colors or shapes save us a great deal of time since they are processed automatically.
In addition, we are deeply emotional. Colors interact with our memory, awaken feelings, and guide our reasoning. They remind us of nice things like those gray, yellow, and orange rain boots we had as children, or they can irritate us when we see a sweater of our ex-partner’s favorite color.
For example, it is unnecessary to know in depth the theories about the psychology of color to know that colors such as pink and red (they begin to emerge everywhere when Valentine’s Day approaches) are associated with love, especially romantic love. If we enter an establishment with this combination of colors, likely, we will suddenly remember how in love we are and that a particular person deserves a special little something.
What Does Each Color Mean in Our Psychology?
This issue has sparked passionate debate. Professionals such as psychologists, sociologists, linguists, or market researchers each interpret the meaning of colors differently depending on how they might plan to use them. They analyze phrases such as “being green with envy” or “seeing life through rose-colored glasses.” They even examine the most frequent colors and undertake extensive studies of different populations to understand which colors are best for each situation.
Let’s take a look at what some of the colors might mean and how they are used:
What does the color white mean?
It is the color of snow, milk, cotton, and wedding dresses. White often represents a new beginning, lightness, perfection, purity, peace, innocence, etc.
In hospitals, white is one of the predominant colors; it is aseptic and transmits calm. White shirts are used to create a good impression since it is an immaculate and neutral color.
A blank sheet of paper opens the door to a world full of possibilities, but it can also give us a certain sense of anguish if we do not know how to use it.
What does the color yellow mean?
The color yellow is often linked to positive concepts such as optimism, youth, confidence, and creativity. We painted our smiley faces yellow as children and would rarely dress in yellow on a sad day. It is the color of the sun, gold, or animals as friendly as giraffes or baby chicks.
However, yellow is a contradictory color. It is related to betrayal, greed, lies, madness, or warnings. The color yellow has also been linked to groups that have been excluded, such as Jews, prostitutes, or single mothers. It should be noted that it is the most valued color in China and practically lacks negative meanings there.
What does the color orange mean?
The color orange immediately captures attention. This color is found in several fruits and vegetables or a beautiful sunset. According to Color Psychology, orange represents extravagance, energy, transformation, and the singular.
What does the color red mean?
Red is the most passionate color; it alarms us and captures our attention immediately. According to Color Psychology, red is linked to love, blood, joy, suspense, closeness, war, or the forbidden. It appears incessantly on road signs, pricetags at sales, or food. It is the color of urgency.
It can’t go unnoticed; we can not help but look at a lipstick mark or the corrections our teacher wrote on our English assignment. If you want to send an infallible message or be looked at, use red.
By the way, dressing in this color attracts more eyes and affects sexual attraction, both in people and animals.
What does pink mean?
According to the psychology of color, pink can represent sweetness, femininity, delicacy, charm, sensitivity, courtesy, illusion, or eroticism. It can be childish by linking with childhood and innocence. But it also acquires nuances raised in tone by being the color of the nude (in many western cultures).
The color pink is adored by many people who buy everything they can of this color—and detested by others who label it as irritating, sexist, or cheesy. The pink hue that receives the most criticism is fuchsia, being associated with cheap and tacky products.
What does the color purple mean?
Purple is an unusual and enigmatic color. It is not a very frequent color in nature and stands out from the rest if used correctly. According to Color Psychology, purple is tied to the world of luxury, religion, and sexuality. Purple objects have an ambivalent and attractive aura.
It has been linked to homosexuality and adopted by feminism. It reflects nostalgia, fantasy, banality, ambition, or vanity. As we can see, it is a color with multiple ambiguous meanings that can have a lot of potential if we want to use it creatively.
What does the color blue mean?
The color blue is the one the most people name as their favorite. According to Color Psychology, blue symbolizes harmony, fidelity, sympathy, peace, serenity, trust, honesty, or communication. It should not surprise us that several social networks (and all kinds of corporations) use it in their logos.
But not all are advantages; blue also seems cold and distant. It is often unappetizing in foods (most foods we think of as blue are purple, such as blueberries). And it may also make us suspicious.
Even so, it is still ideal for many uses, such as painting a room with a relaxing tone.
What does the color green mean?
Green is the most natural color. It reminds us of grass, youth, hope, health, fertility, and wealth. According to the psychology of color, green is fresh and harmonious, evoking moments of peace, youth, and tranquility. Environmentally conscious people are called “green.”
Although most associations are pleasant, it is not an entirely innocent color. Green can also give rise to associated with poison or other dangerous substances.
What does the color brown mean?
The color brown can represent laziness, sloth, dirt, vulgarity, or ugliness. It may seem bland and dated. Brown is often one of the least appreciated colors.
However, brown is a color that has a significant presence around us and awakens multiple associations. It is the color of wood and autumn. It reminds us of resistant, warm, and pleasant homes. It is also found in foods such as chocolate, and having a tan tone is highly valued in many western cultures today.
What does the color gray mean?
According to Color Psychology, gray mainly symbolizes old age and sobriety. It can be dark, mediocre, and bland or signify ‘gray’ areas where moral rules may not apply. On the other hand, gray also reminds us of elegance in fashion.
What does the color black mean?
According to the psychology of color, black is closely related to the world of night, power, and death. It represents denial, mystery, mourning, hatred, or cruelty. People associate black cats with bad luck, and no one wants to have a black and stormy day. It is the end, a heavy and violent finish.
However, black is an elemental color in any closet and surrounds us everywhere. It is functional and handy to go to a party at night or look more elegant on an occasion that requires sobriety.
In the book Psychology of Color by Eva Heller, the meaning of these colors is deepened. It has been one of the primary sources of this article.
The meaning of colors in different cultures
It has been investigated whether the classification of colors is natural or defined by society. After an analysis of different cultures, Berlin and Kay stated that there were common tendencies in all of them when it came to categorizing colors. It is believed that there are six primary colors around which the rest are grouped. There is consensus in the central ones, but there are variations in ordering the others.
As for the meanings, it is frowned upon in our society to appear with garish colors in a burial; we prefer dark tones such as black. However, many years ago in Europe, bright color was used by women, who would cover themselves with huge white cloths. In Asia, on the other hand, mourning is linked to white. This color is best suited to ideas about reincarnation.
In fact, within our own cultures, the meanings of colors are not immutable. Did you know that girls began to be dressed in pink and boys in blue around 1920? In recent years this custom has been quite criticized. Over time, we redefine the meaning of colors and create new conventions that may one day be forgotten or vary according to fashions.
The meanings of color vary even from person to person. We can perceive them in one way or another depending on the fashions, our emotional state, or the phase of life we are going through. For example, the preference for black decreases as age increases (not counting young children), as it acquires negative connotations.
Not everyone sees the same colors. We can not forget the colorblind or people. There are even people with synesthesia who can hear them. However, this does not imply that Color Psychology is tremendously subjective and changeable. If we analyze the context correctly, it will be handy.
Color Psychology: its applications
Colors have been used to try to cure diseases. They are common in practically all the descriptions we make. We tend to choose colors that fit our mood and that we think represent us. There has been much speculation about the relationship between colors and personality. Here we will tell you its primary professional and everyday applications.
The meaning of colors for creatives
Perhaps the first professions that come to mind when talking about colors and Color Psychology are the most related to creativity. Designers (graphics, fashion, interiors, products, etc.), artists, advertisers, and other similar occupations need to know people’s minds to capture their attention and communicate with them. The media is full of examples. We can see that the range of colors of a news channel differs quite a bit from that of a children’s program.
Standing out in a society so saturated with images is a complicated mission. Still, thanks to the psychology of color, it is possible to better connect with the audience and create an emotional impact. Predicting the public’s reactions to colors is essential to convey a message. If you wanted to talk about preventing traffic accidents, what colors would you use?
The meaning of colors for companies
The corporate image of companies is fundamental. Suppose they tell us about the color red soft drink. We will not need more clues. To give us a sense of coherence and look well at our memory, brands condense their logo and the rest of their visual elements their personality through colors. They are essential in marketing strategies.
Imagine the case of a restaurant chain that dispenses with its corporate colors and presents itself in each place differently; our memory will be weaker and disorganized. As a result, we will miss many opportunities to attract and retain customers. The image is not everything, but it helps in these cases. Even more so with how competitive and changing today’s markets are.
We can see changes in the colors that companies use in their image depending on the characteristics of their audience and social trends. It is no coincidence that some brands go from their usual colors to green, which, as we know, is the ecological tone par excellence.
Colors are not only crucial for the public. Employees can increase their well-being and increase productivity if they work in a place where they feel comfortable. An enclosed black space in low light can overwhelm people and want to spend as little time as possible on their desks.
On the other hand, if we paint those walls white and put some touches of green and blue and others of warm colors (respecting the brand’s image), maybe it will be a more cozy place.
The meaning of colors in our daily lives
Colors also affect us when making the most common decisions. From the time we are born, we are asked what our favorite color is, and everyone has their personal preferences. Almost all objects are available in various colors. So it is likely that if our decision is not essential (a cup, for example), we will lean towards our favorite.
However, there are situations in which we have to contemplate more variables. If we are going to buy a car, we have to be sure not to make mistakes. We will spend a lot of time with it, we may want something daring like orange, but it is possible that we get tired and regret the decision later.
On the other hand, a car of a more discreet color such as black or navy blue may be less visible at night. On the other hand, dirt is more noticeable on white, and maybe we want something more cheerful. These dilemmas are usually resolved after many headaches and seeking consensus with the help of family and friends.
Valuable tips for using Color Psychology
1. Our favorite color is not always the most suitable for everything
We’re likely to be passionate about purple, but maybe we’ll be distressed to spend too much time in our room if we’ve abused it. However, it is a perfect color to give any outfit a bit of splash. Especially if combined with others like orange. Think about what the function of the object or space will be before choosing the color.
2. Context is essential to interpret and choose colors
We know the importance of cultural variables and the circumstances of each situation when selecting a color. Seeing a candidate for a lawyer position in a phosphorite green suit attend an interview could be illogical. However, we can always try to innovate and experiment with extravagant and daring color combinations.
3. The key is to know how to combine colors well
We may have to send a letter or design a poster and have taken into account all the elements of Color Psychology. But there are more aspects to consider, such as the effect that two colors can have together. For example, brown accompanied by gold, yellow, and orange represents autumn. However, if brown is presented next to gray and black, it becomes conservative and bland.
4. Colors also have to be functional
Who has not thought about all the possible stains that can land on a new shirt when dressing in white? There are colors more resistant to dirt, others more suitable for heat, some are perfect if we want to go unnoticed, etc.
For example, if we want to make a poster or send a letter, we have to check that the color we write is legible on the background. As much as we like to write in light pink on white, black on yellow is infinitely more distinguishable. In fact, this is the combination that stands out the most.
5. Use colors to improve your memory
If you are preparing for an exam and don’t know how to remember all the steps of a boring list, try to relate each point to a color. Mnemonic rules encourage our learning. In addition, if you have to make a presentation, you can also improve your audience’s memory in this way. Use Color Psychology to highlight the most important thing you have to say and associate each color with its meaning.
6. Be consistent
When you’ve finished this analysis, evaluate what your brand has to do to achieve it. If you have a business or are thinking about entrepreneurship, think carefully about what you want to convey. All the elements of your company must be congruent with each other. The help of a professional designer who takes these aspects into account can be essential to rescue a company or launch it successfully.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in psychology, Scott went on to work as a teacher and educational counselor while working towards his master’s degree. He has spent several years working with children and adults and has personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Dyslexia, and Depression.