Colour me badd: how colour and emotion influences design

We see a lot of designs come through the agency. We visit a lot of websites and use a lot of applications, not only from a practical standpoint, but to look at the way they function. We may not be a team of traditional ‘creatives’, but we understand the web and we understand it’s trends. And colour is cmy-key to that (heyo)!

The link between colour and emotion isn’t a new concept – it’s something that’s been around for centuries. You could read about the subject for hours (and some of it is really fascinating!), but we’ve thrown together a quick reference guide to cover the basics.

: Power, passion, appetite, love, danger

Kit Kat website screenshot

We have a tendency to associate red with power, passion, importance, appetite and danger – it’s one of the most powerful colours in the spectrum, and is known to trigger the pituitary gland and speed up the heart rate. Red elements are more noticeable and often add a sense of importance, which is why we often see it associated with danger and indebtedness.

When we found the Kit Kat website, we quickly discovered that there’s a ‘make your own’ Kit Kat store in Melbourne’s CBD! And if any of our incredible clients felt the desire to create us a little treat, we certainly wouldn’t be complaining. 😉

: Confidence, cheerfulness, friendliness

Bitter renter website

We tend to associate orange with confidence, cheerfulness and friendliness – promoting liveliness and energy. It’s believed that lighter shades of orange are more popular in an upscale orange, whereas brighter shades have a tendency to appeal more to younger audiences… Don’t tell us it’s these orange websites that have been encouraging college-goers to flock to NYC?! Thanks, Bitter Renter!

: Youth, happiness, warmth, sun

Expedia website

Often associated with youth, warmth, sun and happiness, yellow is known for possessing positive emotions, particularly in it’s lighter shades. Some people also believe that certain shades of yellow can inspire energy and creative thought. In this case, it’s encouraging us to travel! One of the happiest and freeing feelings in the world. Well done, Expedia!

In saying that though, the human eye has a tendency to see yellow before any other colour, which is why it’s often used as a callout or for warnings.

Green: Growth, money, healing, environment, envy

Green is a happy medium – it’s a great balance between warm colours (red, yellow, orange) and cool colours (blue and purple).

We most often link green with nature, peace, freshness and well-being. Depending on the shade used, the colour can evoke very different emotions – deeper greens will often be linked to wealth, whereas lighter shades are considered to be more calming and peaceful. There’s a reason we’re told to ‘go out and find ourselves’ in nature, and Camp Pacific knows it.

Blue: Trust, peace, loyalty, masculinity, safety

Shift capital website

We often associate blues with trust, peace, masculinity and loyalty – think about the branding for financial institutions or large-scale universities… more often than not they will incorporate a shade of blue as it can imply feelings of trust, intelligence, devotion and security. In this case, Shift Capital has done a great job in evoking feelings of trust and loyalty – perfect for a company dealing with finances!

Despite being widely recognised as a colour of sadness, blue can have quite a calming and tranquil effect in it’s lighter tones, reminding us of the sky and the ocean.

Purple: Royalty, mystery, spirituality, creativity

Wooview website

Purple is often associated with royalty – creating feelings of luxury and decadence. When used as a dominant colour, it can evoke feelings of elegance and high-end appeal… perfect for WooView – it makes sense that the leading online shopping platform (WooCommerce) would integrate purple into its iPhone app… they’re way ahead of the curve and aren’t afraid to admit it.

Lighter shades like lavender can remind us of spring and romance, while darkening the shade will turn romantic elements sensual.

Brown: Outdoors, food, conservatism, earth

Wolf and son website

We tend to associate brown with straightforwardness, resilience and steadiness. It’s not a popular choice when it comes to branding or design as it can easily be related to dirt, but under the right circumstances, as a colour associated with the earth and trees, it can be a great signal of sturdiness and reliability. So, it makes sense that lifestyle company Wolf & Son would integrate it into their branding – quality craftsmanship and natural products. It screams sturdiness and reliability.

Black: Formality, luxury, sophistication, death

Apple website

Black is often considered to be one of the more serious and formal colours, commonly used in association with prestigious, sophisticated and expensive products. It conveys messages of elegance and authority. Apple have swapped out their usual clean, white aesthetic for the iPhone 7, and incorporate

Apple have swapped out their usual clean, white aesthetic for the iPhone 7, and gone dark – they’re the authority in mobile phones and sleek design.

White: Purity, simplicity, goodness, freshness

Pumpert Gsund website homepage

White is known to evoke feelings of cleanliness, purity and simplicity. It can also be associated with light, positivity, peace and innocence. We often see a lot of ‘negative’ or ‘white’ space as it helps to deliver a clear and clean message, particularly when faced with high-contrast imagery.

Pumperl Gsund’s Pure Eggwhites are a pure, natural product, packed with goodness. Their use of colour throughout their branding is the perfect contrast to their stark-white website and packaging. Definitely a match made in heaven.

We aren’t saying you need to become a colour expert or be the next Van Gogh, but there is a lot of value in having an understanding of how the colours used throughout your design can influence the viewer’s perception. Especially in a world where UX is on the up and up!