Have you ever walked into a doctor’s office with bright red walls? Of course not. It’s more likely a pastel green that can actually make you feel more relaxed. Colour has a notable effect on our moods and can even influence how we react to design. An experienced designer knows this well and strategically selects colours that will create the desired reaction for a product or service.
Although colours can affect individuals in different ways, the overall tone is universal. Red is bold and attention-grabbing while blue evokes a sense of trust and authenticity.
Note that the degree of each shade will produce different reactions (i.e. a light yellow-green having a more energetic vibe vs a deep evergreen shade offering a more calming, conservative feel). In general, though, brighter shades tend to be more energizing while darker shades offer a more relaxed and refined vibe.
Bold, Unapologetic, Romantic
A very powerful and confident colour, red is associated with intense emotions like love, anger and aggression. It can be used to indicate danger (think stop signs), power (red sports car) or even passion (Valentine’s Day hearts).
Seeing the colour red can raise respiration and blood pressure, so use with caution. This colour is seen on national flags, sports advertisements, and even lingerie ads.
Bright, red background with black and white text commands attention to Word & Co’s ‘About Us’ page. The bulky text and limited information help the user digest the information without being overwhelmed by the blatant hue.
Successful Red Brands: Target, Coca Cola, Netflix, Staples, YouTube, Marlboro, Red Bull, Chick-Fil-A & Red Cross
Creative, Fresh, Enthusiastic
Orange is a friendlier shade than its cousin red. It is associated with optimism, creativity, vitality success, playfulness and sunshine. The colour of oranges, it can also be associated with health and wellness. It’s an effective colour choice to market children’s toys, food, and even home merchandise (Home Depot).
Whataburger, a family-friendly burger restaurant uses a few different shades of orange to evoke feelings of warmth, trust and positive energy to their audience.
Successful Orange Brands: Fanta, Harley Davidson, Amazon, Nickelodeon, Mastercard, Reese, Soundcloud & Firefox
Sunny, Joyful, Cautious
Yellow is a complex colour representing cheerfulness, knowledge, confidence, communication and creativity. It is also associated with cowardice and warning (think caution signs), so use carefully.
Mailchimp recently rebranded their website using a striking yellow colour scheme. The logo has been simplified and converted to black for easy visibility over the yellow background. It makes the site more vibrant and memorable, while still engaging the audience with its new innovative look.
Successful Yellow Brands: McDonald’s, Best Buy, Ikea, National Geographic, Snapchat, Shell, Mello Yellow & Cheerios
Healthy, Prosperous, Tranquil
Green is the colour of our environment. It’s about growth, balance, nurturing, renewal, even prosperity. It is one of the most soothing colours and–as a result–is commonly seen in medical offices.
You will find this colour in environmentally friendly and organic nutrition products as well as banks, financial organizations and medical products. Starbucks utilizes green in its logo to embody the growth, novelty and financial success of the company.
Successful Green Brands: Spotify, Heineken, BP, Whole Foods, Android, Tic Tac, John Deere & Publix
Perceptive, Artistic, Royal
Purple is a creative and intuitive shade.
With its imaginative & introspective properties, many businesses like design studios, spiritual or counselling centers employ the colour in their marketing designs. The colour of royalty, purple can also represent financial or e-commerce sites nicely (think WooCommerce).
Purple is a balancing colour of the intellect and emotions, connecting the spiritual and physical world. It is not uncommon for psychologists and philosophers to have an affinity for this intriguing colour.
Kaleidoscope cleverly uses a combination of deep and bright purple to give their tech site a creative and edgy feel. The dark background pulls the user’s attention to the headline while the bright purple call to action button commands attention to download their application.
Successful Purple Brands: Cadbury, Yahoo, Roku, Niveo, Monster, Zoopla, Hallmark & Aussie
Honest, Down to Earth, Calming
Perhaps the most popular of all colours, blue conveys trust, serenity and graciousness. It is easy on the eyes and gives off a welcoming vibe. As such, you will find this colour commonly used in financial, legal and medical practices.
The colour of sky and water, blue is seen every day in our environment, is extremely versatile, and compliments other colours effectively.
bZx effectively uses multiple shades of blue in their website to help build a potential client’s trust for their margin trading industry.
Successfully Blue Brands: Facebook, Skype, Ford, Paypal, Samsung, GAP, General Electric, Chase & IBM
Ordinary, Sincere, Earthy
Brown is a very natural colour. It is the colour of our earth. It conveys solidity, safety and a strong foundation. By itself, brown can appear dull and unrefined but combined with other colours, it can be strikingly beautiful. It’s an excellent colour choice for outdoor recreational companies, coffee shops, and wood furniture stores.
Guarda Golf Hotel & Residences uses brown very effectively for their elegant site. The brown gives it a warm, cozy feeling to entice the potential buyer to book a hotel room.
Successful Brown Brands: UPS, Hershey’s, A&W, Cotton, Cracker Barrel, M&M’s, Hollister & Back to Nature
Formal, Powerful, Secretive
Black is the absence of all colours and it can convey the feeling of power, sophistication and mystery. It is the colour of evil, the night sky, and ravens. Despite the negative connotation, black can exude elegance and confidence, creates contrast against other colours, and makes text extra legible against a white background.
The black background provides a perfect contrast to the white text and interesting graphical outline. The ‘o’ in two also serves as a target to bring your focus to “two chimp’s awesome, no-nonsense coffee.”
Successful Black Brands: Nike, Chanel, Canon, Adidas, Belk, Allure, Forbes, PBS, Puma, Calvin Klein & Loreal
Innocent, spotless, sophisticated
It’s clean, pure and unadulterated. It is associated with virtue, but can also give off a cold or formal tone. White can complement literally any colour and bring attention to the places you want with its negative space. Adding just a touch of another colour to white can bring a very elegant feel to the design.
Apple does it best. A clean, easy to read design that accentuates the sleek phones showcasing colourful images of planets.
Successful White Brands: Crocs, Teslr, The North Face, Nescafe, Apple, ABC, Pop Tarts, Uber, Dove & Pandora
Professional, Muted, Somber
A blend of white and black, gray is a very neutral colour, which makes it an excellent transitional colour. Sometimes pure white or pure black can be too stark for the design. You can choose a deep gray instead of black or the lightest of grays to add some colour to a lacklustre design. Since gray can seem gloomy, be sure to balance it out with colour when appropriate.
My Own Bike uses a gray background very effectively in their interactive bike building site. The use of neutral dark gray in the header text and logo helps eliminate distractions, drawing attention to the most important element—the bike.
Successful Gray Brands: Wikipedia, Wii, Sketchers, Mercedes-Benz, Swarovski, WordPress, Microsoft