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Top 10 Ways to Communicate Using Color

April 7, 2011 IADT General, IADT Alumni 0 Comments

Graphic designer Bri Dold, a 2009 IADT-Tampa Visual Communications alumna, describes the perceptions color evokes in design in this article from the spring 2011 issue of Artistik magazine.


Perception of color is a personal, even intimate experience. How we identify color may vary from person to person. One thing that can and has been tested, though, is the psychological response that certain colors evoke.

Color is such an immense part of art whether in abundance, lacking, or displayed in a harmonious pairing. The mindful use of color should be used to an artist’s advantage. For example, when customers are scanning the aisles of a grocery store for a healthy snack, their eyes are attracted to packaging with variations of green hues because of the color’s subtle suggestion of wellness. Certain wall colors, such as pale blue or yellow, can bring feelings of peace or happiness or help ease anxiety. An ensemble can leave distinct impressions of passion if there are shades of red or of grandeur with purple hues.

When it comes to the topic of color, the possibilities are as infinite as its variations. For now, we will break it down into its influence in the most simplistic way.

Red
Representations: passion, power, energy, love, desire, aggression, heat, danger, violence, intensity, strength

Reds tend to grab attention, encourage conversation and appetite, and often appeal to men. It is used on fire trucks and extinguishers to gain immediate attention for the same reason it is used on warning labels and call-to-action buttons and links. It is often used in restaurants and dining rooms to entice appetites and stimulate conversation. When worn, it can exude a sense of power or trigger sensuality. In short, red is all things passionate and intense.

Blue
Representations: serenity, positivity, loyalty, trustworthiness, friendliness, sweetness, charm, harmony, unity, stability

There is a reason why blue is so often used in political campaigns. Politicians want to be trusted and seen as charming. Blue is a calming color, so it is frequently seen in places of peace and rest most likely because of its relationship to the ocean and a clear sky.

Yellow
Representations: happiness, optimism, enlightenment, wisdom, cheer, idealism, hope, clarity

Because of its relationship to sunshine and light, yellow is the most joyful of colors. It is highly visible on the correct background or as a background color, so it is often used to not only attract attention, but also to make its message stick because it isn’t easy to ignore.

White
Representations: purity, cleanliness, sterility, innocence, cold, simplicity

Although white is the lack of color, it still belongs on this list because of its usage. Often linked to winter because of snow, it gives the sense of coldness. When worn, it shows purity and innocence in most cases. When used in design, it symbolizes simplicity and sterility, hence the term “white-space.”

Orange
Representations: creativity, enthusiasm, fun, energy, vigor, audacity, healing, immunity, success, balance

Depending on its hue, orange can portray several different things. Bright orange is linked to originality and vivaciousness. Like its counterpart, red, it triggers appetite and draws attention which is why it is used in construction sites, on clothing, signage, and in restaurants. Its more muted tones are related to the fall season, representing balance, healing, and immunity.

Green
Representations: life, health, growth, soothe, renewal, refresh, calm, freshness, generosity, jealousy, envy, inexperience

Like many colors, green has both positive and somewhat negative implications. It is refreshing and represents youth and spirit. At the same time, as with adolescence’s dual implications of both vitality and inexperience, green can also depict jealousy because of the cliché “green with envy.”

Purple
Representations: extravagance, royalty, spirituality, romance, luxury, wisdom, mourning, ceremony

Purple’s likeness has a lot to do with its use in history. The color was expensive and took a long time to create, therefore only royalty or the wealthy could afford purple-colored fabrics. Its ceremonious usage, such as the Purple Heart (awarded to those killed or wounded in the military), also gave shades of purple its representation. When lighter shades are used, it is quixotic and sweet.

Pink
Representations: optimism, calm, nurture, love, romance, femininity, softness

Pink is often used in situations which require calmness or optimism. The color pink recalls well-known phrases such as “rose-colored glasses” and “tickled pink.” It is also undeniably related to young girls. Since it is a more watered down version of red, it has a lot of the same qualities as that color, just not as intense. Red is passionate, whereas pink is romantic.

Brown
Representations: earth, nature, simplicity, comfort, rugged, sincerity, reliability, dependable, stability

In design, brown is often linked to the environment. In packaging, it implies natural ingredients. In interior design, it brings the outdoors inside. When worn, it can sometimes represent sincerity or dependability, but can sometimes give a sense of lack of authority.

Black
Representations: sophistication, elegance, formality, authority, depth, fear, evil, mystery, sadness, anger, mourning, death

Because of its use in ceremonious clothing such as graduation gowns and tuxedos, black is seen as a formal color in fashion. Black’s relation to night and darkness also gives it a sense of mystery with a touch of evil that relates to the fear of the unknown.

Find Bri's work at limerencecreative.com.

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