“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” Wassily Kandinsky
Color fills our surroundings making it impossible to not be impacted by it. We associate color with different feelings that make our brains light up. So, what does it mean? Why does yellow make us feel lighter, or remind us of happiness and friendship? Why is the color red associated with urgency or danger in some contexts and victory and dominance when worn by a sports team? Who decided the meaning of color? Let’s dive deeper into understanding color and why it’s crucial to branding.
What is color theory?
To understand the deeper meaning of color, we first need to understand color theory. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “Color theory is the collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate with users through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces.”1 It can be demonstrated through the famous color wheel. The wheel is a tool used to help pair colors together that are visually compatible with each other.
What do certain colors mean?
This is a loaded question. Color is a perception that we have that is founded in our culture and experiences. For example, the color white. Some of the first thoughts that come to mind are new life, purity, cleanliness. But in countries such as Ethiopia, India, and China, white is the color of mourning. As you can see, the meaning of certain colors are impacted by culture, so for this study we will look at it from an American perspective.2
- Symbolizes: Cleanliness – Purity – Innocence – Perfection
- Effects on us: Refreshes – Balances – Purifies – Simplifies
- Example Industries: Business – Medical – Technology
- Symbolizes: Protection – Power – Elegance – Sophistication
- Effects on us: Mystifies – Seduces – Secures – Intimidates
- Example Industries: Car Repair – Religion – Fashion
- Symbolizes: Action – Strength – Energy – Passion
- Effects on us: Attention – Motivates – Stimulates – Cautions
- Example Industries: Retail – Travel – Fitness
- Symbolizes: Emotion – Youth – Optimism – Enthusiasm
- Effects on us: Encourages – Uplifts – Stimulates – Communicates
- Example Industries: Fitness – Home Improvement – Construction
- Symbolizes: Happiness – Optimism – Positivity – Intellect
- Effects on us: Clarifies – Inspires – Amuses – Energizes
- Example Industries: Construction – Travel – Power Tools
- Symbolizes: Harmony – Safety – Growth – Health
- Effects on us: Revitalizes – Balances – Relaxes – Encourages
- Example Industries: Agriculture – Education – Environment
- Symbolizes: Security – Trust – Loyalty – Responsibility
- Effects on us: Protects – Calms – Relaxes – Supports
- Example Industries: Finance – Business – Technology – Healthcare
- Symbolizes: Spirituality – Mystery – Royalty – Imagination
- Effects on us: Enlightens – Inspires – Uplifts – Encourages
- Example Industries: Beauty – Arts – Clothing
- Symbolizes: Compassion – Love – Femininity – Playfulness
- Effects on us: Sympathizes – Calms – Nurtures – Comforts
- Example Industries: Beauty – Floral – Fashion
How does color theory impact my brand?
The color wheel is a tool that can help you choose colors to associate with your brand. We’ve talked about how certain colors can be associated with specific characteristics and feelings. So, knowing this, choosing colors that reflect what your brand represents is everything. First impressions are crucial. Every day we see logos without knowing what the companies even are. The brands that make us remember them or even take it a step further and look them up? Those decisions are subconsciously impacted by the emotion their logo gave us.
Now that you have a better understanding of just how important color is for your brand, you’ve taken the first step in building the brand of your dreams. Play around with color combinations using the color wheel, test it out on random people and see what their first impressions are. Color is a powerful tool that can help you if you use it correctly. So grab a swatch book and get colorful!