Colors have deep subliminal meanings that affect our thinking and rational. They have symbolic meaning that changes amongst different cultures and countries. We are faced with color choices all the time. The first crucial decision of the day usually comes in the morning when deciding what to wear. Often times we will choose our clothes based on the color of the mood we are feeling or wish to portray that day. Even more important than choice of wardrobe is the color selection for your brand or website. Color research and planning is a vital part of the design process. Before you even begin a design you must choose the appropriate colors that are effective in re enforcing the brand, message and overall tone.
Colors are a part of our pop-culture. We associate our favorite sports team by their team colors. Red Sox, White Sox, Cleveland Browns, Duke Blue Devils are among a few teams to incorporate a color into their name. Colors have become a part of our every day vocabulary; “Canary Yellow” “Carolina Blue” “John Deere Green” “Fire Engine Red.”
“An executive for a paint company received complaints from workers in a blue office that the office was too cold. When the offices were painted a warm peach, the sweaters came off even though the temperature had not changed.” – Pantone
There are the three primary colors of Red, Yellow and Blue. Then there are secondary colors of Green, Orange and Purple. Additionally, there are Tertiary colors that are combinations of the first two sets. Complimentary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel and often evoke feelings of excitement. Analogous colors are those that are close to each other on the color wheel. These give a particular feeling whether it be warm and cozy or cold and depressing.
There are many different technical aspects when it comes to working with colors. In the print world Pantone and CMYK are the color formats, while online RGB and Hexadecimal is the medium. Because of this it is important that both the web and graphic designers work closely on the color process to make sure their colors transfer smoothly from one medium to another. A color may look one way on a particular screen but when printed out it looks totally different. It is important to come up with a color palate listing all of the different color codes that will ensure a unified color scheme throughout print and web.
Red is a very strong color. It is a noticeable color that is often used on caution and warning signs. It is often associated with stop or “beware”. It’s a hot color that evokes a powerful emotion of passion, lust, sex, energy, blood and war. Red is a good color to use for accents that need to take notice over other colors. Red is often used in flags for nations, as it is a symbol of pride and strength. It is also a sporty color that many car manufactures choose to showcase their signature vehicles.
Orange is a combination of Red and Yellow. It is also a bright and warm color. It represents fire, the sun, fun, warmth and tropical images. It is considered a fun light color that has appetizing qualities to it. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates mental activity. It is highly accepted among young people. As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite. Any design relating to the tropics, something fun, easy going and youthful should incorporate some type of orange into the design. A darker, richer shade of orange can be associated with autumn.
Yellow is the brightest color to the human eye. It represents youth, fun, happiness, sunshine and other light playful feelings. It is a cheerful energetic color. Yellow is often used for children’s toys and clothes. Yellow is often hard to read when placed on a white background so designers must be careful when using yellow, that it isn’t’t too difficult to read or notice. Though yellow is a bright cheerful color, as it starts to darken it, however, quickly becomes a dirty and unpleasant color. Yellow can also be associated with being scared and, cowards. The term “yellow belly” is proof of that.
Green is the color of nature and health. It represents growth, nature, money, fertility and safety. Green is a relaxing color that is easy on the eye and has a healing power to it. It is often used to represent anything having to do with health. Many pharmaceutical and nutritional companies use green in their logos and material to advertise safe natural products. Dark green is commonly associated with the military, money, finance, and banking. However it can also be associated with being new or inexperienced as being green or a “green horn”. Green is becoming a very popular color in design for web sites.
Blue is a cool calming color that shows creativity and intelligence. It is a popular color among large corporations, hospitals and airlines. It is a color of loyalty, strength, wisdom and trust. Blue has a calming effect on the psyche. Blue is the color of the sky and the sea and is often used to represent those images. Blue is a color that generally looks good in almost any shade and is a popular color among males. Blue is not a good color when used for food as there are few blue foods found in nature and it suppresses the appetite.
Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Throughout history purple has been associated with royalty, nobility and prestige. It symbolizes mystery, magic, power and luxury. Purple is often used to portray rich powerful kings, leaders, wizards and magicians. Purple combined with gold can be flashy and portray wealth and extravagance. Light purple and pink is good for a feminine design and is a popular color among teenage girls. Bright purple along with yellow is commonly used in promoting children’s products. It gives the appearance of something that is fun and easy to do.
Black is often a color used to portray something evil, depressing, scary or even death in western civilization. It has negative imagery with it at times such as “black mail” “black list” “black hole” etc. Black is also a very powerful color that also portrays one of class elegance and wealth. Classy clothing is designed in black from the “power suit” to the “sexy black dress” to formal “black-tie attire”. Black combined with other colors can have a very strong statement. Black is a color that can fit into almost every design to add contrast, type, and make the other colors stand out more.
White is often associated with being pure, clean, fresh and good. The color of a fresh snowstorm brings up images of a peaceful and pure winter scene. White is a common background for Webster’s as it is easy to read black or dark text on it. When used with a design using lots of negative space it gives a very clean look to it. White is also used lots for charities and non-profit organizations to denote something good and positive. Hollywood often portrays their characters in white as being good; the white horse, the cowboy with the white hat, the white wizard etc. White usually is associated with being pure and almost heavenly, it is associated with hospitals, doctors, and heaven.