Why is color choice so important?

Why is color choice so important?

Color is one of the most powerful tools that a designer can draw upon and understanding how color affects each and every one of us is key in the fine art of communicating messages effectively.

There are many essays and academic papers on the subject of color theory. There are very specific associations of how color affects an individual at a basic human level when looked at through ’expressive’ qualities and ‘cultural associations’ that everyone has with the entirety of the visible color spectrum.

Color touches everyone at a basic, even primal level. In nature, we all know that “Red” is a warning color. Red berries, Red-capped mushrooms, – most are poisonous. We also know that “Yellow” in certain situations means danger – think wasps, bees and hornets. Over thousands of years of human evolution, we have learned to ‘read’ the world around us using color… this hasn’t just disappeared because we live in modern cities and have state-of-the-art technologies at our fingertips. Understanding the power that color holds over us, and harnessing this properly is what designers strive for in everything they touch.

“I don’t like lime green, so whatever you do, don’t make my logo that color.”

I suspect that there isn’t a graphic designer who hasn’t heard a client say something like this before. We have just stated that color affects all of us on a basic level, but it is of course, highly subjective. There is even some evidence that our “age” is a factor in our liking of color. Many studies into this area have found that blue and red “maintain a high preference throughout life” but that yellow is popular with children. We also know that with maturity comes a greater liking for hues of shorter wavelength (blue, green, purple) than for hues of longer wavelength (red, orange, and yellow).

So given the seemingly infinite number of variables, where do you start? ‘How do you make the best color choice for your next promotional brochure, corporate identity, or website? Fortunately, there is a widely accepted set of ‘color associations’ that give us a good starting point.

Color choices are driven by several factors: What does the company do? What does the companies customer base look like from a demographic point of view? And also what part of the world does this company originate from or do business in?

As for that last question let’s take a look at ‘western color associations’ because there are some global differences – in many parts of Asia, for example, white is associated with ‘mourning’ whereas in our own culture it is black that has such connotations. So make sure you have considered all of the above before you start making color choices.

So next time you are starting a design project, whether it be a small print project or a 48 sheet billboard, remember that color plays as powerful a role in communicating meaning as the words and images you are using. It’s why police cells are painted in pastel shades (calm people down), why theme parks use bright reds and oranges (keep people excited), and why lawyers favor blue (authoritative, calm, and happy). Every color choice you make has a definite impact on the viewer and their reaction to it can either help or hurt you. So take your time when selecting colors to use in design. Do your homework and have good reasoning for your color choices when pitching concepts to your clients. If you need help defining and better understanding color please reach out to Streng Agency and we will be glad to assist.