Colour plays a part in all our lives each day as we interact with brands and websites. In this blog we’re going to explore some of the theories that underpin the way designers and artists use colour and how our brains react to different colours. By the time you’ve reached the end of this blog hopefully you’ll understand a bit more about using colour as a tool and also share our fascination with the world of creative possibilities it presents us with.

When someone sees something for the first time it is the colour that they notice first and one way to capitalise on this first impression is therefore to make sure that you use appropriate colours. Using colour intelligently can help to give you an advantage over your competitors whether it is in your branding, your website or even your products. Use the ‘right’ colours and you will reap the rewards.

The power of colour is not to be under estimated. To give an example of this studies have found that over 80% of people use colour of a product as a motivating factor when choosing to buy something. Just think for a minute about what you’ve bought recently, whether it be an item of clothing or a high value item like a car. Did colour come into your decision making process?

Colour Theory

The underlying principals and theory that form the foundation for the use of colour by designers is as relevant to modern applications such as web design as it ever has been throughout it’s long history. We’re going to undertake a whistle stop tour of just three of the most basic areas in an attempt to give some idea of how it influences things.

The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel offers a simple way of presenting colours in a progressive order with one colour leading onto the next in the series. It has it’s origins in the 17th century with the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton but wasn’t fully developed until the early 18th century. Modern colour wheels show concentric circles allowing a greater variety of colours to be displayed.

The wheel shows the three colour groups – primary, secondary and tertiary.

Primary colours – red, yellow and blue.

Secondary colours – created by mixing together primary colours – green, orange and purple.

Tertiary colours – created by mixing together primary and secondary colours – yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green.

Selecting colours that work well together is key to using colour effectively and creating harmony or more visually challenging effects. As humans we are drawn instinctively towards harmony so if you’re thinking about what colours to use say in a logo you might want it to grab peoples attention but you don’t want to hurt their eyes and irritate them. The colour wheel helps to illustrate the various groupings it’s possible to find.

Colour Relationships

Complimentary colours – These are colours immediately opposite one another on the wheel – e.g. red & green. In print and on the screen in websites, this group of colours work particularly well thanks to the way they can stand out.

Analogous colours – These are three colours alongside one another on the colour wheel. Also known as monochromatic colours they are various shades of the same colour and appear together giving a subtle and sophisticated finish. e.g. yellow, softer yellow and orange.

Triadic colours – These are three colours 120 degrees apart on the colour wheel. These ones provide contrast and interest lifting off the page. e.g. red, green and purple.

Discovering more about how to find colours that hit the sweet spot between appealing to your intended audiences eye whilst not either being to plain or to bold is the trick. Garish colours are likely to offend but you also don’t want your colour use to be so gentle that it disappears almost like camouflage into the background.

Colour Psychology

Each colour has an emotional impact associated with it as we’ll now see in the list below. This is a good starting point to begin looking at the use of colour in a more subjective manner as we begin to think about why certain colours are used by some companies and not by others.

Condensing colours into ‘colour psychology groups’ is interesting but the fact is that whilst it is that whilst colours do evoke underlying emotions, there are a whole range of other factors at play when we interact with colour in a branding situation including cultural, historical, gender, demographic and personal factors all coming together to play a part. These should all be considered when thinking about attracting your customers.

RED – Associated with warmth, boldness, youthful heat, fire, passion, love and danger. It’s been found to increase heart rate and appetite. Examples of brands include – Coca Cola, Vodafone & Royal Mail.

YELLOW – Associated with outgoing, optimism, sunshine and happiness. It can encourage communication and is eye catching but it is not a soothing colour. Examples of brands include – CAT, Shell and McDonalds.

BLUE – A calming colour associated with water, the sky and reliability, trustworthiness and dependability. Examples of brands include – NHS, Facebook and Twitter.

GREEN – Tranquil. Often linked with nature and the environment. Other associations include power, money and wealth. Examples of brands include – Heineken, Android and John Deere.

BLACK – Mysterious, powerful, authority, strong. It has associations with luxury and elegance. Examples of brands include – Chanel and BBC.

WHITE – Purity, simplicity, creativity and freshness all apply to white. Technology and modern. Examples of brands include – Apple and a certain design agency called Teapot Creative!

Condensing colours into ‘colour psychology groups’ is interesting but the fact is that whilst it is that whilst colours do evoke underlying emotions, there are a whole range of other factors at play when we interact with colour in a branding situation including cultural, historical, gender, demographic and personal factors all coming together to play a part. These should all be considered when thinking about attracting your customers.

The Importance of Colour

What is clear though is that colour plays a part in the decision making process whether it is helping to align you to a particular brand, helping brands stand out or fostering a certain appeal or image.

Successful brands like the ones I used as examples above all have something in common and that’s that they use colour as a key part of their brand identity. Regardless of whether the colour suits their brand, the colour has ‘become’ part of their brand meaning that people can quickly identify the company almost through the colour alone. A great example of this is the chocolate brand Cadburys and their shade of purple, which even has it’s own Pantone code. If you want to find it then search for 2685C.

Finding a colour for your brand and using it throughout your website, business stationary and other marketing materials, vehicle liveries and so on is one step further towards building a strong brand.

What We Can Do For You

At Teapot Creative our team of experienced graphic designers and web developers have worked with a wide range of clients to enhance and develop the clients brands and websites. They can take the client’s experience and understanding of their sector or industry and together will create long lasting designs using colour in all of its complex forms. Take a look at our portfolio of design work to see what we’ve done in the past and what we could do for you in the future.

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