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Let’s Talk About Color

Color makes life interesting. Color is all around us in endless different hues, shades and variations. Agreeably, we find the most beautiful colors in nature, but they also give life to buildings, homes, furniture, clothing and product label designs. Color can evoke strong human emotions, and the use of color can mean totally different things based on culture, location or simply the context colors are put in.

Color can change your mood. Sometimes the colors that you wear can give you an identity. Color can be in and out of style with trends, certain colors can calm you or raise your heart rate. In some cases, people will fight over colors (bloods and crips), while some people are actually color blind. People with synesthesia can even see colors when hearing sounds.

It’s fair to say that colors spice up our life. They really enrich our visual experiences and connections. Sixteen million is an estimate of how many different colors a 24 bit RGB computer monitor can simulate. But in real life, there’s almost an infinite number. There are endless ways to combine these multitudes of shades and hues, which gives us so much uniqueness.

Color is a basic natural element and our brains have learned to associate feelings and meanings to them. In some ways it has become second nature for us. Thus, the use of the powerful imagery connected to colors can be used as a powerful language. You can see that color brilliantly applied in the fields of art, design, marketing and branding can be very effective.

If you convey a message, not only with text, but also with color, you can really hit home with a message. If you add images, shapes and symbols to the mix, the message will be even stronger. That’s when you really can strike a chord and get people engaged. Clever marketers manipulate us with these powerful tools, languages and other tricks every single day.

Let’s Talk About Color - Coca Cola and McDonald's

To learn more about the tricks of good marketing, it can be useful to know the basics of color theory, and to have a basic understanding of the different hues of the color wheel. There are differences between warm and cold colors, triads, and complimentary colors. It’s beneficial to know how you can combine colors to make things pleasant for the eye, create harmony or evoke human emotions. If you can combine that knowledge with intuition, feeling and personal taste, then you’re on to something truly magnificent.

Studies show people typically respond to bright colors. Not only because they’re easier to see from afar, but it’s easy to remember colors that you can name. Some colors also have the power to evoke gender norms in our minds, like blue for boys and pink for girls. What’s really interesting is what we associate as meaning to the different colors. Let’s talk about a few here regarding the three primary colors: red, blue and yellow.

Red

Red is the color of extremes; it captures attention. It is often used to communicate some kind of action, to provoke, or make you feel pretty strongly about something. It can mean love, passion and seduction. Just think of Valentine’s Day. Or, it can also mean violence, danger and anger based on the context. Think of red dripping blood on a knife point. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire, blood and energy. It’s the international color for stop and it’s used to trigger alertness. Most Japanese children draw the sun as a big red circle. In China it is the color for weddings. Red is actually one of the top two favorite colors of all people.

Blue

The most popular color in the world is blue. It is also the #1 favorite color of the majority of people. It’s a more passive color and less provoking. It’s nature’s color for the water and sky. It’s the color that is most commonly used in corporate identity. Most blues convey a sense of trust, loyalty, authority and intelligence. Light blue is peace and serenity, while bright blue is cleanliness, strength and coolness. Blue can reduce stress, create a sense of calmness, relaxation and order. In folklore, a bride wears something blue for good luck. It is also the skin color of the god Krishna. Guess what color the highly recognizable logo for Facebook is…blue!

Yellow

Yellow is the most visible color of the spectrum. It’s the color of happiness, and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, sunshine and spring. It’s the color of: happy faces, the Tour de France winner’s jersey, post it notes, and it’s the internationally understood color of traffic lights and signs indicating caution everywhere.

Color theory can go deep; it’s a science and can be quite advanced. But knowing the basics can take you a long way when dealing with colors in all types of situations. For example, wearing a specific color in a job interview or business meeting can make a difference, especially when the color is near your face, which is where you will communicate. And the color you choose for your corporate identity can be critical.

The common problematic issues when working with colors are typically about applying color without a concept or goal, lack of contrast and using too many colors. It’s good to be conscious of the relationship between color and emotion and see how the colors around us at work and home, can really affect our mood and us.

Let’s start using color with intention!

What do you find most interesting about color? Let me know in the comments!

Now let’s move forward…

– Casper Stang