You see colors everywhere you look, every minute of the day, but do you stop to consider the impact each color is having on you? Each color has a meaning and an impact, whether it’s calming blue skies and green fields, or saliva-inducing reds and yellows at your local fast-food chain. The meaning of colors is a whole science and art. You should be aware of these color meanings if you are an entrepreneur or designer to help you choose colors wisely and harness the power of color symbolism.
- Red: energy, passion and danger
- Orange: creativity, youth and enthusiasm
- Yellow: happiness, hope and spontaneity
- Green: nature, growth and harmony; but also wealth and stability
- Blue: calm, trust and intelligence
- Purple: luxury, mystery and spirituality
- Pink: femininity, playfulness and romance
- Brown: wholesomeness, warmth and honesty
- Black: elegance, power and sophistication
- White: minimalism and simplicity
- Gray: professionalism, formality and conventionality
- Multicolor is for fun, diversity and optimism
- Gold, silver, bronze and other metallics: wealth, prosperity and success
- Some other colors
Red: energy, passion and danger
The color red signifies passion, energy, and love. “Red” is the color of anger, power, and danger, making it a powerful color for branding. A fireman’s truck has bold red paint or a traffic sign with, “stop.” Fast food chains also use red since it stimulates appetite. McDonald’s, one of the most famous examples, uses red in combination with yellow.
Red calls-to-action on Netflix‘s platform encourage users to sign up and join. Coca-Cola is another famous red brand (and, according to story, the Coca-Cola marketing campaign branded Santa Claus red). Coca-Cola’s recent packaging redesign will be interesting to watch as the company moves from its iconic red to match its new Diet Coke flavors with other colors.
How to use Red color
Red is a great color if your brand is loud and you want to stand out. Due to its high energy, it is ideal for use in caffeine drinks or fast cars. It stimulates appetites, making it a good choice for restaurants trying to draw customers. Also, you can use this color as an accent color on your packaging or website to promote buying.
Orange: creativity, youth and enthusiasm
Orange is a secondary color that combines the warmth and brightness of red with the playfulness and joy of yellow. While it is not as daring as red, it gets people’s attention, making it perfect for warning signs like traffic cones and high-visibility clothing. Due to its obvious link to oranges and vitamin C, this color is energetic and can inspire health and vitality. As a youthful color, it adds a sense of vibrancy and fun.
Nickelodeon is a great example of using orange to connect with young audiences in a fun way. While Gatorade uses an orange lightning bolt to promote energy and activity, orange is also a popular color for tropical drinks like Fanta.
Some brands choose color for historical reasons: Hermès chose orange during World War II because it was the only paperboard available! Despite its confident nature, this color is not generally associated with luxury.
How to use Orange color
The color orange makes for a great choice for youthful and creative brands looking to stand out from the crowd. This friendly color is also action-stimulating, so it can, like red, be used as an accent color to captivate the eye and elicit activity.
Yellow: happiness, hope and spontaneity
The color yellow is associated with the sun, smiley faces, and sunflowers. It’s a hue filled with hope and positivity, a color that’s full of happiness. In the same way that red and orange indicate caution, yellow is another color that grabs your attention.
McDonald’s golden arches (well, they’re actually yellow) are globally recognized symbols that can be seen from a distance and immediately evoke images of fast food. The yellow tag on Best Buy indicates a discounted price for its cost-conscious customers.
How to use Yellow color
If you want your brand to be associated with speed, fun, and low cost, yellow is a great choice. A bright yellow is good for grabbing people’s attention right away and it can help to emphasize a design, while a pale or warm yellow can look more natural, while a neon yellow can appear unnatural.
Green: nature, growth and harmony; but also wealth and stability
There is no denying that green is universally associated with nature, as it is associated with grass, plants and trees. Being the color of spring and rebirth, it also represents growth and renewal. Another association is getting the “green light” to move forward, which gives it an association with taking action. The color green (and specifically dark green) is associated with money in the US and represents stability and prosperity.
Additionally, green is often viewed as a fourth color on top of the primary red, yellow, and blue colors (like in Microsoft and Google), providing visual balance and, therefore, soothing and relaxing effects. Starbucks, Spotify, and Whole Foods Market are some brands that use various shades of green.
How to use Green color
Eco-friendly, organic or sustainable brands naturally choose green as an expression of their connection with nature. Likewise, muted or lighter shades of green can evoke naturalism, but neon greens will feel artificial and less harmonious and have the opposite effect. In a website, a green call to action can suggest ‘go’, though the battle continues with red buttons that suggest urgency.
Blue: calm, trust and intelligence
The color blue represents intelligence and responsibility as a calming and serene color. The color blue is relaxing and cool. A baby blue that is light is considered peaceful, whereas a dark blue refers to depth and power. When it comes to personal preferences (both for men and women) as well as business logos, it is the most popular color. It’s the color of choice for corporate institutions, usually combined with a mature gray.
Many social networks choose blue as their color of choice. The blue color of Facebook is apparently because founder Mark Zuckerberg is colorblind and notices blue as the brightest color. Social networks with all their privacy concerns and other concerns work well with the association of dependability and trust. Twitter is blue, as is Instagram, VKontakte in Russia, and even Mashable, a social media site that tracks social behavior.
How to use Blue color
If you want to be immediately associated with professionalism and trust, then blue is the color for you. Since it’s universally liked, it’s also a great choice if you want to appeal to both men and women. Its association with calm and tranquility means that blue is also a good fit if your business is in things like relaxation, therapy or meditation.
Purple: luxury, mystery and spirituality
Purple is an interesting color in that it is both warm and cool, with the passion and energy of red combined with the calm and serenity of blue. Purple is inherently prestigious and luxurious due to its associations with royalty. Due to its high price, purple dye was historically only available to wealthy rulers. It was even forbidden to wear purple outside the royal family by Queen Elizabeth I, who wore it to control the ruling classes and kings. In addition to its association with religion and spirituality, purple has special meaning in religions such as Catholicism, Judaism and Buddhism. Moreover, purple is on trend, with Ultra Violet being Pantone’s color of the year 2018.
The funny thing is, brands aren’t always as strategic when choosing colors as they should. According to the story, Yahoo ended up purple because it was the cheapest paint color available at the time to renovate its offices. In Asprey, a company of British heritage dating back to the early 1700s, purple is used more commonly in luxury. Since Queen Victoria, Asprey has held a Royal Warrant.
How to use Purple color
Purple is perfect when you are looking to evoke a royal, luxurious aura. Play it off with golden accents for a more eye-catching effect. Use it when you want your brand to have a strong spiritual connection. Green will create a really striking contrast, while pink will highlight the feminine.
Pink: femininity, playfulness and romance
When looking at pink today, it’s impossible not to think of little girls, cotton candy, and bright-colored bubble gum. Pink symbolizes femininity, romance, sensitivity, and tenderness. Essentially, it’s charming, sweet, and cute.
Together with brown, pink is one of the least common logo colors. Barbie and Cosmopolitan, which target obvious female audiences, along with Baskin Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts who tap into the ‘sweet’ side, are typical uses of bright pink. Other feminine brands and wedding companies often use lighter pinks. A few less typical use cases include Lyft and TMobile, both of which want to stand out from their competition by being more playful and approachable.
How to use Pink color
If you know your target market will be female, using pink is a great way to communicate that your product is aimed at them. However, for some audiences it can be off-putting, and you may wish to be more creative in conveying femininity without resorting to clichés. Furthermore, you can use it to stand out from dull and dreary competition or add an unexpected element to a sophisticated design.
Brown: wholesomeness, warmth and honesty
The color brown is associated with the earth and, therefore, communicates stability and support. Due to its connection to the earth and to nature, brown is associated with farming, agriculture, and other outdoor activities. It represents the old fashioned and the well established, as well as being warm, friendly, practical and dependable.
Logos don’t use brown that often. If it is, it represents utility. Even though blue is usually associated with corporate branding, UPS uses brown to symbolize dependability (and later warm yellow to signify friendliness). A few years ago (2010), they even led with the color: “What can brown do for you?”.”
How to use Brown color
A warmth and wholesomeness can be conveyed with brown as a background color. To really create that organic feel, use it in a natural pairing with green for a brand that’s earthy and natural. Brown can also convey a sense of heritage and tradition. Obviously, brown is a good color to use for chocolate brands.
Black: elegance, power and sophistication
Black is probably the most used color in graphic design due to its versatility. The color black is generally associated with exclusivity, power, and elegance in branding and marketing. Modern brands love it because it’s bold, powerful, and a little mysterious. You can also use it to create an unapproachable and cool look depending on the design context. While it has an inherent neutrality that works well with any other color, it is often used in typography and other grounding design elements.
Luxurious brands like Chanel and Dior feature black-and-white logos to keep things stylish. It makes them seem more exclusive and aspirational to be intimidating and unapproachable. Black is the color of the James Bond 007 logo.
Due to the old black-and-white printing press, newspaper logos also tend to be black. Most brands will have an instance of their logo in black-and-white, since it is usually a lot cheaper to print in black and white than in color.
How to use Black color
You can’t go wrong with a simple black-and-white color scheme if you want to convey a sense of luxury. If you pair it with gold, silver, or even royal purple, you’ll give your brand a sense of prestige and exclusivity. On the other hand, black can also be used with bright colors for contrast and when combined with powerful colors like orange or red can be extremely eye-catching and riveting.
White: minimalism and simplicity
You should know that white light actually contains all of the colors of the rainbow-but to the naked eye at least, it looks the opposite: it’s colorless. It is associated with virginity in Western cultures (think of White wedding gowns as symbols of purity), but in some East Asian cultures, it is a color associated with mourning. White creates a minimalist aesthetic in design and branding. You can keep it simple, clean, and modern. In addition, it is the most neutral color among all and can be quite non-descript as a foundation for other, more exciting colors.
With their advertising and packaging, Apple shows how white can be used for a modern, minimalist aesthetic that showcases their beautiful product design. Black Marc Jacobs logos are printed on white luxury retail bags and boxes for retail stores. The packaging of health and beauty brands that aim to communicate purity and natural ingredients will also usually be white. It also fits well with wedding brands.
How to use White color
A designer can see the importance of white space just as much as other creative elements. White is typically the color used for website backgrounds since it makes your text easy to read. Additionally, it’s often used as a secondary accent in a color scheme. Combining it with pastels can bring to mind spring and femininity; with simple black it transforms into a classic and minimalistic look. The colors you pair with white play a large part in its appearance.
Gray: professionalism, formality and conventionality
A gray color indicates maturity, responsibility, and is associated with the gray hair that comes with aging. Formality and dependability are some of its positive connotations, while lack of emotion, conservatism, and conventionality are negative connotations. It’s quite serious and reserved, safe and subdued.
Gray is rarely the center of attention. The Nintendo logo briefly favored gray from 2008 to 2016, but has since returned to its earlier red color. There is a gray logo for the Swarovski jewelry brand, even if you look at the website and it’s in black. Grey tends to be a secondary color, supporting the more dominant colors.
How to use Gray color
Grey is a good choice for brands that want to convey authority and stability. Combine it with blue for the ultimate in dependability and conservatism. Additionally, it’s one of the most popular colors for web design. If you desire a softer background for your website, you might consider gray to replace white. If you prefer less contrast and easier reading, you might consider graytext instead of black.
Multicolor is for fun, diversity and optimism
Monochromatic branding can bring focus and style, but colorful branding can convey fun, informality, and creativity.
Children’s brands often use colorful designs – like Toys”R”Us or Crayola – but grown-up brands can also be creative! The use of multiple colors in Google’s logo shows the brand’s playfulness. As an example, ebay had a similarly colorful logo up until 2017 when it simplified its logo to one color in its marketing campaigns, although the colored logo remains on the website. A similar change was made to Apple’s logo, from the multicolored striped apple to a sleek silver one.
How to use multicolor theme
You can stand out, show your playfulness, and appeal to children and younger audiences by using many colors in your branding and design. Colors that have opposite color wheels provide a real pop (for example, purple and orange), analogous colors promote harmony (for example, red, orange, yellow) or triadic colors create an explosive effect (equally spaced colors).
Gold, silver, bronze and other metallics: wealth, prosperity and success
Both gold and silver are precious metals, associated with wealth and expensive jewelry. Add a touch of glimmering metal to black to instantly elevate a brand’s look. In addition to representing success, gold is also the color of a winner because it is associated with first place medals. This is a warm color related to yellow, so it feels bright and cheerful. While silver is cooler, less luxurious and comes in second place, it still represents elegance and grace. Bronze, which came in third place, is earthy, natural, and mature because it has brown properties.
While Porsche and Lamborghini use gold elements in their logos, so does Rolex. Gold and brown can be found in Louis Vuitton’s monogram . The color gold is clearly associated with luxury. On the other hand, silver is commonly used in car logos, including those of VW, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Audi, and Mercedes, which denote quality and workmanship.
How to use metallic colors
Metallic effects can be difficult to recreate online, they act more as materials, or textures, than as colors. Essentially, gold is a glossy yellow, silver is a glossy gray, and bronze is a glossy brown. A website or a logo can still convey metallic tones with shading and highlighting, but the full impact is felt on printed materials, where foils add that metallic shine. You can’t go wrong with black and gold if you want a look that says luxury.
Some other colors
Dark Blue: Symbolizes integrity, knowledge, power, and seriousness.
Turquoise: Symbolizes calm. Teal symbolizes sophistication. Aquamarine symbolizes water. Lighter turquoise has a feminine appeal.
Lavender: Symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance.
Beige and Ivory: Symbolize unification. Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness. Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity.
As you see, every color has its different effects on the human mind.
Now that you know the game rules, you can experiment to find out what works best for you. Don’t be afraid of breaking them. You just need to be careful not to choose crazy color combinations without any consideration for how they might impact the overall effect.