Understanding Color Psychology and its Impact on Design

Color psychology. Theories focused on humans and color go back many years. And now designers are using this knowledge when designing new spaces. We all know the common themes, red, orange, and yellow are brighter, more playful colors and blues and greens are more comforting soothing colors. But what do colors really represent? And how can we use that knowledge when designing an office space, lobby, or classroom?


In the future, we will go into more detail about what colors work best for specific environments. But first, let’s get a brief understanding of how we, as humans, interpret each color without even realizing it.


Different emotions are attached to each color, and brands know this – look at different logos they each display emotions. Check out this graphic from The Logo Company:

You are starting to see it now, aren’t you?!


Now let’s break down each color.


Red: On the emotion, guide red is connected to emotions such as excitement, youthfulness, and boldness. According to a report written by the University of Rochester, when we see red we tend to become faster and more forceful. It’s almost like red triggers the ‘fight or flight’ aspect of our brains because it is seen almost as a threat. Excitement and fear cause the same physical reactions. This is why red can be very contradictory. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Orange: Orange is thought to display friendliness, cheerfulness, and confidence. But again, it can be contradictory due to things like prison uniforms and safety vests being orange. The reason for that, however, is because orange is also known to be attention-grabbing. Generally, high-vis vests are meant to grab attention and prison uniforms, to make it so they can’t hide. So still the ‘attention-grabbing’ aspect is the main trait connected to orange. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Yellow: Yellow is connected to optimism, clarity, and warmth. Often it is considered a cheerful color, however, a lot of yellows can cause it to be considered an aggressive color. Part of that could be because too much bright yellow can become overwhelming, as it is the most visible color in the spectrum. However, subtler shades lend themselves well to the cheery aspect and can bring ‘sunshine’ to environments, creating an optimistic environment. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Green: Green tends to display emotions such as peace, growth, and health. Obviously, this stems from (pun intended) nature being largely made up of green. Nature is known to calm us humans, and I mean my mom always told me to eat my greens, so it must have some relationship with health…😉 Because of its relationship with nature green is known to relieve stress and be calming. On the flip side, it can also be known to display money and envy. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Blue: Blue is known to create emotions of trust, dependability, and strength. Blue is linked to many things that are stable in everybody’s lives, the sky, the ocean, and more. Both of these are untouchable by humans, their strength far exceeding anything we can do, and they are always there. Dependable no matter how much things change. This could lead to feelings of trust, dependability, and strength. Also blue is considered calming. Who doesn’t sit next to an ocean and relax to the sound of waves and the endless blue? On the contrary, as reflected in the saying feeling blue, can also display sadness. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Purple: Emotions connected to purple are creativity, imagination, and wisdom. It is also considered to represent royalty, which can lead to anything purple giving the feeling of being wealthy. Fun fact, this actually is the result of purple being the hardest dye color to create, due to the lack of purple in nature. In the old days, purple was expensive because it was scarce, meaning only the very rich could afford it. And what are the wealthy and royalty known for? Their uniqueness and wisdom, are also words to describe feelings concerning purple. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Pink: Pink is just a shade of red, but emotions related to pink are very different from red, which is why I gave it its section! Pink is considered a very feminine color, and the feminine tends to be seen as kind, calming, and nurturing. This leads to pink exuding these traits. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Black: I know, I know, black isn’t a color, it is a shade. But it is a very important shade so we will touch on it too! Black is a shade that has very strong positive and negative associations. Some positive emotions are sophistication and class. Think of some premier clothing brands. Gucci, Prada, Chanel, and more. Their logo exudes sophistication and makes it feel elite and powerful. On the flip side, black can also be a very negative shade. The shade, evil, and dark feelings are commonly represented by black, which is why it can have a very negative connotation. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


White: Another important shade. White. Often white is considered to be pure and innocent color. It is also associated with cleanliness, sometimes going as far as being stark and cold. But when used right it can give the feeling of cleanliness and simplicity. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


Brown/Tan: Back to an actual color. Brown is another one that has very different emotions attached to it. On one hand, it can feel solid and earthy. Steady and reliable, like the earth. Rarely do you walk on the earth to have it fall apart beneath you and the earth is brown, beneath the grass and pavement! But on the other hand, it can seem kind of boring and dreary. (Read More on Very Well Mind)


That was detailed, I know. But maybe that helped you in understanding why the colors you choose can affect your environment!












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