Every day you see ads, signs, photos and logos in various colors… but what are you really seeing? What do the colors in these marketing and communication applications really mean? Think about one of the most recognizable brands – Coca-Cola… would it be the same if it were purple or green? Probably not!
Every color has its own meaning – and without knowing it your brain associates a certain emotion with it. Graphic designers know this and design their work accordingly. When color is used correctly – it adds impact and clarity – but when it is used incorrectly, it can compromise your design.
Color has meaning for people and you need to make sure you are using the correct color for the right group. For example, colors mean different things in different cultures – let’s look at the meaning of yellow in a few countries – France/Jealousy, Greece/Sadness, United States/Happiness and China/Sacredness – make sure you know your target audience! Don’t use the wrong color and destroy your design.
Don’t forget that every season has color associations and fashion has a huge impact on trends, so stay abreast of what is going on around you!
Now, let’s look at colors – and what they mean:
RED – Red is one of the first colors to catch your eye. It is used for excitement and you will see a lot of red with food and automobile. Red means passion/power – but remember your holidays: February (love) and December (Christmas).
YELLOW – Yellow is the first color your eye processes. It means joy, sunshine, happiness, intellect, and energy. Yellow can also mean caution. Think of being on the road – all caution signs are yellow, NYC cabs are yellow and caution lights are yellow – this is strategically done to catch your eye. Why not use this in your design?
BLUE is the color of the sky and sea and is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, and truth. Many companies use blue in their logos.
BLACK represents strength, elegance, formality and mystery. In the correct application, black can be very strong!
GREEN is a fresh color and symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. It is often used to represent the spring season and seasonly, St. Patrick’s Day. Most commonly the eye may associate the color green with recycling and nature. Think “Go Green”. It often represents safety and money – especially with dark tones.
PURPLE is royalty. It is dignified it represents power, ambition, wealth and extravagance. It can also represent wisdom, creativity and magic. Adolescents prefer purple so use it when designing for children.
WHITE represents light, innocence and purity. If used correctly, white can be very powerful. I particularly like the use of white space – this is seen in some logos and advertising.
The next time your client or company comes to you with a design project remember this article and what the use of a color means. Do you want to grab attention? Do you want to target men or women, older or younger generations? Think about what time of the year it is. In design… everything matters!