By Mike Sauce, Head Media Chef – SaucePan Creative
I know… a provocative title to this blog post. However, it has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. When we “designer types” talk about color and choose them in our branding or website designs, we use color for specific reasons. Colors are, aside from the overall aesthetics, a huge part of how someone feels about a design. What does the color say about a brand? Why were the colors chosen?
Some of those answers are obvious but many are subconscious. I often use the term “Gestalt” to describe why something feels like it works or doesn’t work. That term means simply, the sum of all parts. Color can have a huge impact on the overall design just by its use. Does the color direct users to do something? Does the color (or lack of) portray a feeling or focus the user’s eye to a specific point on the page. There is a reason why a button is RED. That means “DONT PUSH IT” unless you are really sure.
For example a couple of years ago, I was involved with an e-commerce project where we experimented with the color of an “Action” button for a web site. We prepared the proper A-B test to determine which color was more “clickable.” Initially, the button was orange because it was aesthetically consistent with the overall logo and branding. However, once we changed the color to a bright green… it became more of a focal point and suggested that it was an “Action” item thereby creating more click-throughs.
In Art School, I spent my fair share of time studying the use of color… ok…. I more or less spent about 6 months of my life understanding how to mix the primary colors to obtain all hues, values and shades on the color wheel. The same thing.. over and over again until my eye was so trained that my wife literally hates shopping for paint colors with me. Thanks Mom and Dad… that was a real value for your tuition money! Anyway, I was fascinated by how colors, even in combination with other colors, could convey an emotion or provoke a response from the viewer. Here’s a list of “simple” colors and what they mean.
Red is a dramatic and warm color. Red also conveys “warning” due to the fact that it is used on stop signs and stop lights. Red can also convey energy and strength because of its bold nature.
Orange, while my favorite color, is a mix of red and yellow (any school kid will tell you that!). It is often cheerful and warm almost like the sun. It conveys a sense of happiness or youth.
Yellow has been said to be an “Angry” color. While I don’t feel that it is always an angry color, it can have a sense of tension just because of the way it is used with other colors. Because it is the most visible color, it can often “Vibrate” with other colors. It also conveys a sense of cheerfulness and warmth, again like the sun.
Green can either be a warm color or a cool color. The yellow-ey greens can go warm, while the blue greens can go cool. Green is a peaceful color that can often be calming to the mind. We see so much of it in nature (present drought aside) that we are accustomed to seeing it and it blends into the background. Green makes you feel secure (like in a forest) and offers a bit of tranquility.
Blue is a cool color. It is also the most popular color by far for most things. It conveys a sense of trust and dependability. It’s also a color that doesn’t fight with you. It is tranquil and peaceful just like green.
Apart from the stereotypical “Regal” nature of purple, it too is a calming color. Purple has long been associated with kings and queens.. that is until the Knights Inn used it as their bed spreads and, in my mind, ruined purple forever. It is considered to be stately and humble but possesses a richness not found with any other color.
“What can Brown do for you?” (apart from a the slogan in the UPS commercials) Brown conveys reliability and stability. It also has a sense of realness that doesn’t intrude on you. It is also a color we are used to looking at in nature so it too has a calming effect.
Hospital. Enough said. Seriously… white says pure, fresh and clean. White, with light, is the presence of all colors and with pigments is the absence of all colors.
Black means elegance. Black conveys a sense of power, refinement and sophistication. It can also be mysterious and authoritative.