Articles concerning the meaning of colors are legion, but only a few of them manage to go beyond the stage of the epinal image. This is unfortunate, because when used correctly, color psychology can help companies create a memorable visual identity and effectively reach their target audiences. Let’s put the dots back on the “i’s” with this selection of the 5 most common myths about color psychology…
“The area of my activity depends on the color that I should use in my visual identity”.
This point is not so much a myth as a source of misunderstanding.
Each field of activity has its own preferred colors, which translate into visual identity with similar colors.
For example :
Brands concerned with the protection of health and the environment readily adopt blue, green or white in their visual identity, but avoid more aggressive colors such as red.
On the other hand it is highly appreciated by the food industry or luxury brands, who see it as sometimes delicious, sometimes glamorous.
These codes exist whether we like it or not. So it is necessary to take them into account in their reflection… but not follow them blindly!
For example, the brands Hermès or Veuve Clicquot, both wanted to stand out by betting on shades of bright orange, which is more common for food packaging than for luxury items or champagne bottles. This bold choice contributes to fostering the uniqueness of their brand image and differentiating them from their competitors on store shelves.
While it is true that every industry has its own color preferences, there is always room for an underdog. Choose them carefully based on what your competitors like, and how you want to position yourself against them.
“I can’t use blue to sell fitness classes: blue slows the heart rate…”
It is true that there is research that suggests that colors can have an effect on our bodies and our behavior.
For example, some studies show that red can increase heart rate and blood pressure, while blue will have the opposite effect: it calms and lowers blood pressure. Still other studies have found an association between red and orange colors and appetite stimulation, while blue has the opposite effect.
It is being said:
Not all studies done on this topic are completely reliable. Many of them are done with limited means and on samples too small to be representative.
Furthermore, it is important to note that these effects vary from person to person and are influenced by many factors, including: culture, personal experience, or the environment in which the colors are perceived.
Rather than focusing on the physical properties of colors, which are subject to debate, it is important to question how our audience is likely to see them according to their culture and their expectations.
Take the example of a fitness club:
Blue is definitely not the first color that comes to mind. But think back to the last point: this can be a great opportunity to stand out! Take Orange Blue for example, which has adopted its namesake colors to highlight the professionalism of its experts and the importance of rest between two sessions of physical activity…
“Pink is for Girls”.
Stereotypes are difficult to ignore, especially when they are deeply rooted in the collective unconscious. In fact, generalizations about colors (green = nature, yellow = optimism…) are not without foundation, and should be taken into account.
That said, there is one important point to consider:
When, in a specific context, a color takes on a specific meaning, the latter will carry more weight, and may even go so far as to override more general meanings.
Think of a traffic light. What image or thought comes to your mind when the traffic light turns red? Tomato ? Blood ? Or rather, the obligation to stop and the ensuing wait?
Contrast matters a lot in the meaning we give to colors. I briefly mentioned, at the beginning of this article, the use of oranges by two iconic brands that gain extra visibility in stores (among other possible motivations). In fact, this argument is also valid for brands whose propositions are more abstract.
For example, Lyft chose a magenta color to contrast with its main competitor, the ambitious all-black-and-white Uber. Idea? Emphasize their human, fun and community side. Finally, their bright pink evokes less Barbie (one suspects they’re not aimed at kids!) than their “young and fashionable outsider” side.
“My call-to-action button should be red, studies have proven it works better!” ,
Ah, yes, those famous studies that proved the miraculous effect of warm colors on conversion rates… Sorry to break your enthusiasm, but if it was enough to put red everywhere to sell better, it would. Would have known!
Not that colors don’t have any effect on conversion rates (by the way, Google takes the color of its links very seriously). But The success of one color over another depends largely on the context.
To go back to the red button example:
Red is an energetic color that’s hard to ignore, and provides good contrast to most colors. Thus, a button of this color will naturally be more conspicuous, and by extension, likely to receive more clicks, than a button that blends into the background.
My advice ? Look at the colors that are on your page, and choose a shade that contrasts well to draw attention to the areas that are converting. To avoid breaking the chromatic harmony of your design, you can opt for a darker, lighter or more saturated hue of your main color, depending on your graphic charter, for example.
“If my logo colors are not right, my business will be doomed! ,
If it makes you feel better, I can guarantee you with 99.9% certainty that if your business goes bankrupt, the color of your corporate identity is unlikely to be the culprit. (Don’t thank me, I’m good at reassuring people.)
characteristic of a brand, It is to create meaning to give greater perceived value to the goods and services sold. And whoever says create meaning, says: establish your own rules.
Remember when I said that specific meaning trumps general meaning? The good news: That specific meaning, you have the power to make it happen.
this is easy :
The more you expose people to the “color X = brand Y” thought association, the more they will get used to it. And this is even if the original meanings of the colors don’t particularly matter to you.
Eventually, you’ll be able to create your own color combination, or even just one color, like Tiffany & Co. and its turquoise blue is so iconic it steals the show from the logo.
That said, be practical when choosing the colors of your visual identity. Don’t choose the same collation as your competitors and think “readability”. The yellow + white combination is lovely, but if you want us to be able to understand the text of your communication mediums, you need to think about bringing a bit more contrasting color into the equation!
The psychology of colors hides clues to guide us. Nevertheless, it is advised to be careful of an interpretation that is too literal or too harsh. The meaning of colors is changing. As our perception of colors is largely dependent on context, it is logical that the meaning we assign to them is the same.
Everyone has a personal experience and appreciation of colors. This we cannot predict or control. What we can control, on the other hand, This is what we convey to them through our brand. By avoiding generalizations, taking into account parameters such as trends, reach, context, cultural associations and the way colors mix, you will avoid the most common pitfalls and be able to create a successful brand experience.
About the Author
Alicia Vigne: Blogger with an academic background as an iconoclastic graphic designer and translator, I work primarily on my Pixelart blog and Quora. My specialty: Talking about visual communication, linguistics, and artificial intelligence in a sarcastic tone.