Web Design

The Anatomy of Color

When you look at that pristine landscape of white at the Apple Store, what comes to mind? If you’re an American, you probably think of cleanliness…technological elegance and purity…the future. White means other things in other cultures, though. In China and Japan, it connotes death; in India, unhappiness. And while white may signify “liberty regained” to the folks at Apple, it means exactly the opposite to the people of Russia, who associate it with Czarist oppression.

While psychologists agree that a person’s reaction to any given color is strongly influenced by individual experience, there seems to be a bit of evidence that in this society, certain hues are more likely than not to be associated with positive traits.

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Red appears to represent love… energy… passion…vitality… desire…heat. It’s a color associated with taking action.

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Blue, on the other hand is cool… trustworthy… tranquil… secure.

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Yellow, always associated with sunshine, is generally seen as a happy color—bright, perky, and joyful—but not necessarily a shade that connotes strength, or masculinity.

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Orange is a color that evokes cheerfulness, freshness and sassy confidence here in the United States.

But as the telecom company Orange found out, it’s not a great self-identifier in Northern Ireland, especially when coupled with the tag line, “The future’s bright … the future’s Orange.” Associating the color with Protestants and Loyalists, it did little to endear the company to the Catholic Irish in the population.

Secondary and tertiary colors, which are formed by merging other shades, frequently mean more than one thing even in the same demographic.

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Green, for example, is often considered symbolic of nature, of plants, of a healthy ecosystem… but it’s also seen as the color of wealth, greed, envy, and of course, money.

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Brown can be seen as luxurious and as rich as a bar of imported chocolate… or as repulsive as fecal matter.

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Purple, traditionally the color of royalty, is seen as rich, sumptuous, and luxurious… but it’s just a tad moody, and a bit of a gender bender.

Speaking of gender, men seem to prefer shades, which are colors mixed with black; women have a softer spot for tints, which are colors to which white is added. Pink falls into this category, of course, and in this day and age, it’s considered the epitome of everything soft, frilly and girly… but that hasn’t always been the case. According to Smithsonian.com, “In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.” It wasn’t until the 1940’s that pink became identified with little girls, and blue with boys…and now, the perception is so deeply entrenched that few people can envision the fact that, in and of themselves, these hues really mean nothing at all.

So here you are…thinking of starting or rebranding a company. How do you decide which colors to incorporate in your logo, websites, stationery and marketing pieces?

Writing for the UK website Zero Above, author Rob Norman advised readers to study the well-documented social connotations of each color… but to make the choice subjectively. “At the end of the day, the colour you choose should be something you like, not just something you worked out through a formula. The brand colours tell others something about your company, but it is also something you should get behind and enjoy.”

If you appreciate working with a firm that’s as protective of your brand as YOU are, we’d be tickled pink to work with you.

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