Rainbow Psychology: The Importance of Color Selection

Have you ever noticed how similar color schemes can be from company to company in any given industry? If you had to think of a dominant color in the fast-food industry, what first jumps to mind? Easily, Red. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, KFC, just to name a few. This color decision is no coincidence, as psychological research and brain mapping has indicated the color red can trigger a hunger response in our brains. Likewise, the color Blue is said to be associated with trust and reliability, which is why you often see it utilized in the corporate and government worlds. Black is seen as seductive, sophisticated and elegant—it’s also the most common color used to market luxury brands. Each color is tied to a particular emotional response, often on a subconscious level, and it’s important to know what your color choices are saying about your company.

A Case Study: The 2012 Presidential Election

Our recent presidential election was historic for several reasons; including the prominent role graphic designers may have played in the outcome. Never before have political campaigns attempted to be so modern and visual. Both candidates utilized graphic designs and color psychology in their websites, logos, posters and social networks. Romney’s website and logo used traditional colors associated with presidential elections — red, white and blue — while Obama used various, lighter shades of blue in conjunction with red.

According to research done by the University Hospital South Manchester, dark blues are more closely associated with poor moods and the anxious, while light blues are favorite color choices among healthy people. Light shades of blue actually cause the body to produce calming chemicals in the brain, while too much blue comes off as cold and uncaring. Obama’s design team focused on the importance of positioning Obama’s image with innovative design that speaks to lighter moods, while Romney’s branding used more traditional, albeit cold, colors—arguably isolating his audience.

The Obama campaign’s use of different shades of blue not only added a modern sensibility to his image, but the monochromatic color scheme made it soothing and pleasing to look at, as opposed to the anxiety-causing dark blues the Romney campaign utilized. While Obama’s campaign wasn’t as fresh as in 2008, his brand came off consistent and unwavering. More importantly, he was able to tap into the residual innovation of his first campaign, leveraging the message of hope, inspiration and, you guessed it, happiness of his 2008 win. We’re obviously not suggesting color choice won or lost the election, simply that both campaigns were aware of its potential to influence emotion.

What It Means to You

We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that your target audience isn’t as broad as a presidential election. This can actually give you a distinct advantage, as you probably know your niche audience and the type of reaction you’d like your marketing collateral to solicit from them. Whether it’s a marketing slick, PowerPoint presentation, business card, proposal cover, product packaging, website layout, etc., consider what your colors are saying to your audience. Here’s what we know:

Red:  excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, hunger.

Blue: trust, reliability, belonging, coolness.

Yellow:  warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness

Orange:  playfulness, warmth, vibrant

Green:  nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance

Purple:  royal, spirituality, dignity

Pink:  soft, sweet, nurture, security

White:  pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild.

Black:  sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery

Gold:  prestige, expensive

Silver:  prestige, cold, scientific

Further Reading: How Graphic Design Helped Obama Win 2012 Reelection


A color infographic: http://nowsourcing.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/louisville-painter.html

Source: Bridged Design Blog