How to choose the perfect colour for your design and not just a pretty one

Whether you are designing a website, poster or logo, choosing the right colours is of great importance for your design. Colour is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and even influence physiological reactions (Verywellmind 2020). When you are able to choose the right colours for the right audience you can influence how your audience feel about your company. As a result, conversion can increase. 

Colour and culture

The first thing to understand about colour is that colours themselves don’t have specific meaning. Over the years people have assigned meaning to them. Feelings about a colour are often personal and can be different in every culture. For example, the colour white represents purity and innocence in Western countries and is therefore used for weddings, while in many Eastern countries they wear white at funerals since it’s a symbol of mourning (Vanseodesign, 2010). However, even in the same culture people can have different associations with one colour. Take the colour red for example. In traffic red can be seen as a warning, but on the other hand red also represents love. (Infonu, 2015). 

Know your audience and company 

Since the interpretation of colour has everything to do with context, it is important to know your audience. Of course, it is important to take the company you are designing for into consideration as well. What do they want to portray? When you have established this, you need to find out what meaning colours can have in order for you to choose the right ones. 

Research on colour

Luckily, some research has been done on the effects of colour. Studies for example have shown that the colour red increases blood pressure and heartrate. Blue on the other hand decreases blood pressure and heartrate. As for the colour yellow it appears to stimulate the analytic part of our brain, which incites to logical decisions and clear ideas (Colournavigator, 2019). 

General interpretation of colour

Although you can take this research into consideration, it is most important to know what the general interpretations of colours are. So, let’s dive into some common colours and see what they can do for your design. 

Red: Let’s start off with one of the most popular colours to use for branding: the colour red. If you want to portray power and passion, red is a great colour to use. Studies have also shown that the colour red increases your appetite. Therefore, if your design has anything to do with food, I highly recommend you use this colour.   

Orange: Orange is a vibrant and energetic colour. It can draw attention without being as in-your-face as red. It gives your design a friendly and inviting feeling. This colour is also associated with creativity. Therefore, if you have an audience that is creative and likes to express themselves, the colour orange might be the right way to stimulate them. Be careful when combining black with orange though, because it can easily scream Halloween.

Yellow: The colour yellow radiates happiness and joy. If you have a young target audience and want to evoke a cheerful feeling, then the colour yellow might be the right colour for your design. Yellow can be used for an older audience as well, but make sure to use a darker yellow. This often gives your design an antique and professional look. Whatever shade of yellow you use, keep in mind it’s number one rule: don’t use too much in your design otherwise it will distract the audience from its real message.

Blue: This colour is associated with trust, loyalty and wisdom. If you rely on the trust of your audience, the colour blue can do just that. It is no coincidence that PayPal has a blue logo. However, blue can also be associated with depression and coldness. So, if you have a more sensitive audience don’t use this colour. 

Green: As most of you probably know the colour green represents nature, health and freshness. So, if you have an audience that finds durability of great importance you know what to do. However, green can also be associated with wealth and money. The colour green can therefore be used for many different purposes. Take Greenpeace and Rolex for example. Greenpeace uses light green in their logo to represent nature while Rolex uses a darker green to represent money and wealth.

Although some research show what the effects of colour are on people, it mostly depends on the personal experiences of your audience. The general interpretations of the mentioned colours above hopefully give you a push in the right direction. Don’t hold back on doing tests like A/B testing as well to find out what the effects of colour truly are on your audience. 

When choosing colours for your design there is no right colour, but there definitely is a wrong one. If you are designing a poster for a food company and you are using the colour blue, I highly advice you to read this article again.  

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