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  • Writer's pictureNorthPoint

Pixels To Print: How Color Affects our Emotions

For most of us, color plays a very large role in our life without us even realizing.  Psychologists have long studied the effects that color can have on our mood and emotions, and because of this, designers and advertisers have really begun to take advantage of the power that color can have on their audience. Research has shown that people make subconscious judgments about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing. Between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone. Therefore, when it comes to visual communication, color is probably the top factor in attracting attention and influencing feelings and perceptions, so it is used to ultimately help set a mood to your design. 

Based off the common terminology of “feeling blue” that is used when we are feeling sad or “seeing red” when angry, you may guess that blue is associated with sadness and red with anger, and to some degree, you are right! Blue, green, purple and other cool tones are generally connected to sadness and aloofness, and warm hues to aggression and defiance. Cool tones are also known to create peaceful states of mind, while red, orange, yellow and other warm tones are associated with busyness and excitement. 


In the business world, blue tends to represent productivity, stability and reliability. If you think about it, some of the most recognizable and trusted corporate symbols often are blue, such as Samsung, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, or American Express. This is because the color blue brings out feelings of trust, dependability, and honesty.  It is often used in businesses related to technology, health, airlines, or medicine for this reason.  


The color purple is frequently associated with creativity and luxury.  Physiologically, it heightens people’s sense of beauty and their reaction to more creative ideas.  It is often used with high quality and luxurious companies or products, like cosmetic products or candy companies (Cadbury, Milka, etc.) to invoke feelings of luxury and excitement, or companies that want to come across as creative and imaginative, or sometimes even nostalgic.  


Green represents growth, healing, and balance, so it often leaves people feeling fresh, relaxed and connected to nature and health.  It is also very often associated with money and wealth, so it can be used by financial companies to remind consumers of money.  You will see a lot of health-related and environmentally friendly brands using the color green in their branding and packaging as well because it leads people to feel healthy and fresh when buying their products or choosing their brand over others.


The color red triggers opposing emotions. It is often associated with passion and love, but it also can be connected to feelings of anger and danger.  Either way, it increases the heartrate and creates excitement.  It is the color that draws attention to itself the quickest and calls for action to be taken.  Red is also known to stimulate the feeling of hunger, which is why it is very often used by restaurants and grocery stores in their advertisements.  Brands that use red tend to be perceived as powerful and high-energy as well, which is why it is suitable for high-profile organizations like the Red Cross or Target.


Orange is associated with playfulness and enthusiasm, which is why brands use this color to send the message that their company is friendly and cheerful.  The color physiologically inspires and creates excitement.  Similar to red, it draws attention and shows energy but is not as overpowering and is instead more inviting and friendly. It is a great color to use when trying to call customers to action.


As you may assume, because of it’s brightness in nature and common association with the sun, yellow is the most energetic of the warm colors and is connected to feelings of happiness, optimism, and spontaneity.  However, using too much yellow can overstimulate the eye and create irritation and annoyance, so while it is used to make people happy, keep in mind that a little can go a long way with this color!


The color black is truly unique. It's one of the only colors that can evoke a high level of elegance, exclusiveness, and sophistication, while simultaneously conveying the seriousness often associated with the color.   It is bold, powerful, and can be used to evoke mystery as well. In design, black can be used to contrast with and put emphasis on accent colors, which can create a very powerful graphic.  Having just black and white designs can also give off the impression of a very sophisticated and high class brand.


Last but not least, white often represents simplicity and minimalism.  Using white in design can create a fresh and clean look and is the perfect neutral color to add to any design. Designers who are looking to create something of modern and minimalistic aesthetic will frequently use a lot of white.  Just like the neutrality of black, white is also a great neutral to pair with a bold color to draw the attention even more so to that color. 

While color is certainly very important in the creations of designs when it comes to invoking emotion, it is important to factor in that color is not completely agreed on throughout the world.  It is ultimately subjective to past experiences and cultural differences.  Even so, colors and emotions are linked nonetheless and can make a huge difference in the reaction and interpretation of a design on an audience.  Now that you have learned all about the real power of color, use these findings to carefully select the color scheme of your next project and receive a powerful response from your audience in turn!

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