Making Color Work for You

What’s your favorite color? If you’re like the majority of responders to a recent color survey, you probably answered “blue.”

For some, that means your clothing, car, room décor, and all sorts of everyday items are chosen because they are blue, or whatever you said was your favorite color.

How about your advertising? Web site? Other marketing materials? Those things demand choosing color beyond personal preference.

For starters, we all have psychological reactions to color, heavily influenced by our culture. Some colors have taken on symbolic meanings. For example, the “good guy” wears white and the “bad guy” wears black. Red can mean passion, or it can mean danger. Green conjures visions of grass and nature, or of money.

And I’m talking about Western culture here. In Western culture, for example, it’s traditional for a bride to wear white. But in many parts of Asia, white is a funerary color. Brides there wear red, the color of good fortune. Western brides generally avoid red, because of negative associations (at least in the old days) with “poor morality.”

But maybe you knew this already, so time to move on to my point.

Designers for businesses pay attention to the positive and negative connotations of color when designing something seen by customers. For example, if your product is a financial investment service, it’s better to use a color theme of green (for money) or blue (for trust) then it is to use red (“in the red” or losing money). Seems obvious, right?

Then there’s the way colors make us feel. Some colors keep us calm and relaxed, others make us restless or alert. Some make us happy, others make us angry. At least symbolically they do. Green and blue are both restful colors. Yellows and oranges have more energy. Did you know those two colors are often deliberately used by fast food restaurant chains to give a subliminal message to “hurry up and eat”? The idea is to get customers to eat and leave to make room for more customers!

So as a designer for business, it’s important to understand what a typical customer feels about the product, and support that emotion with the wise choice of color in all marketing materials. You’ll make more sales that way.

Yes, the best marketing does keep a prospect’s attention. It does so with good copy and good design. If done well, it doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles. Color is just one of the tools a designer uses. But ignore the impact of color at your peril. That fuchsia color you love so well in your favorite sweater won’t work for a company making uniforms for security guards. Have you ever seen advertising on a web site for security guards with a fuchsia color theme? Probably not.

In choosing colors for business, keep a balance between the symbolism (obvious or not) of the color choices and the need to attract attention to your company, brand, or product. Choose colors that “play nice together” and aren’t jarring. And choose colors that support the message of the copy rather than detract from it. Never choose an aspect of design for its own sake, whether it be color, line, balance, contrast, or any other element of design.

Oh, and my favorite color? Blue, of course. Just like you, I’ll bet.

This entry was posted in color, graphic design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.