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The Psychology of Colour


When we think of “communicating” most of us will instantly think of words. For a long time conversation and written content has been the most efficient way of conveying our thoughts, ideas and information, but in graphic design we are forced to consider more universal methods of communication than language and text.

In this media-saturated age we’ve trained ourselves to process as much information in as little time as possible. Most of your current and potential clients will be exposed to your brand for a few seconds at most as they scroll through your posts on their social media feeds or drive by signs for your business; in this climate our role as a designer is to make sure your brand makes those fleeting seconds count.

Your brand needs the right hook to grab a potential client’s attention, and to communicate the personality and services you offer in a prompt and memorable way - and one of the key factors of this is selecting a strong colour scheme for your business. After all, colour is the first thing people will notice about your brand!

If you’re just starting up or on the verge of launching a new product, choosing the right colour can be an intimidating task. Do the colours you’ve selected work together? Will they carry the right message or trigger the right emotion? Will you stand out from the hundreds of other businesses offering the same thing?

Lucky for you, we’re here to share a little of our knowledge and understanding about the psychology of colour and what we consider when we’re looking at colours for our own designs!

It is the universal colour of peace and purity, though is has many other associations such as cleanliness, innocence, honesty, simplicity and surrender.

White will typically appear in design as negative space (the space between letter and graphic forms), or else as reversed text on a dark or coloured background, but when used in the right combination of colours - perhaps with a touch of pastel pinks or blues - it can help to create a softer harmonious and comforting feel.

Alternatively, when combined with dark, bold colours such as black or navy, a well placed white will lend itself to a more modern or classy aesthetic.

Yellow is a bright, highly visible colour perfect for catching attention. Typically it is associated with happiness and positivity, Summer, warmth, playfulness and curiosity.

At the other end of the spectrum, yellow can also express caution or cowardice.

It’s wide range of psychological impacts, including stimulating the nervous system and triggering memory, allows for a wide range of emotional impacts and is known to promote creativity and confidence.

Orange draws it’s attributes from both of it’s primary colours; Red and Yellow.

It is bold and has high visibility, making it a key colour for catching the eye and drawing interest.

It evokes feelings of energy, playfulness and even appetite, and is a colour commonly associated with creativity and enthusiasm.

Red is an intense colour both visually and in terms of its ability to stimulate powerful emotions. The colour is typically associated with strong, conflicting imagery; from blood and anger, to love and passion.

It is proven to increase blood pressure in viewers, and as such is a great indicator of action, energy, excitement and danger. It is also believed to create hunger in people - which is why it’s a go to colour for fast food restaurants (you’ll notice this everywhere you go now! Sorry!), as well as gyms and fitness instructors.

As stereotype would have it, pink is typically a feminine colour. Lighter shades are associated with daintiness and innocence, reflecting the nature of the florals from where the colour naturally comes. As such, it is frequently used in the beauty industry to appeal to female buyers.

At the more saturated end of the spectrum, hot pinks maintain the feminine qualities of the colour in general but have the added suggestion of power, energy and glamour.

Purple has a range of diverse implications. Historically, purple was a colour of wealth and royalty due to the pigments used to create it being so rare and expensive, but it also has the ability to communicate mystery, spirituality and sophistication.

It is a common colour used by education-based businesses and for luxury products.

Blue can be an incredibly dynamic colour, and is the popular go-to for the age old question of ‘What’s your favourite colour?’; most people will identify that they like at least one shade of blue!

Blue is typically a calming colour (which is probably why it’s such a popular choice for bedrooms and resorts), but based on shade and palette combinations it also has the ability to project authority, security, confidence and success.

This makes it fairly universal, and a great choice for a range of different purposes including financial, medical and mental health businesses!

Green, typically associated with nature and flora, is a standard representation for life, growth and prosperity. Similar to blue, it is a soothing colour that invokes feelings of restfulness and can be commonly linked to health, harmony and healing.

Alternatively, green is also a colour associated with jealousy and naivety, or - in it’s bold and crisp hues - can mimic the effects of yellow in stimulating energy and excitement.

Businesses that want to portray being eco-friendly will typically use green in their branding.

Brown is a typically warm, neutral colour with a lot of depth, that is associated with earth, nature and practicality.

Many businesses in the construction and legal fields will use brown for its simplicity.

Grey, similar to brown, is a neutral colour but in the cool spectrum; it lends itself well to corporate and authoritative business designs.

It is often selected as a compliment to the other colours in design as it works well in most palettes without overpowering other colours and their messages.

Black is a timeless colour and is perfect to create both classic, traditional designs, as well as modern and edgy brands. Used in the right way, black can convey elegance just as well as it can boldness and contrast.

It is commonly used to express power and sophistication, though in some cultures black is a colour associated with evil and menace.


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