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The Psychology of picking your colour scheme

Recently, we had a client suggest that we write a post about colours and their meanings. So here it is!

Colours have different meanings that affect our thinking, feelings and thoughts. They have deep subliminal and symbolic meanings that sometimes we're not even aware of. Being faced with a colour choice can be quite daunting, when you are deciding on your company branding. Before you think about the design of your logo or branding, you should have also thought about the appropriate colours that will reflect a good message and overall tone.

As with many things in design, colour is subjective. It can evoke different reactions from different people for different reasons! This is all down to personal preference and obviously you can't please everyone. Taking a look into what different colours represent or mean, may help you decide what colour scheme is most suitable for your business.

We have laid out what each colour symbolises or represents below but in brief here is a quick list below: 

Red: Passion, Love, Anger
Orange: Energy, Happiness, Vitality
Yellow: Happiness, Hope, Deceit
Green: New Beginnings, Abundance, Nature
Blue: Calm, Responsible, Sadness
Purple: Creativity, Royalty, Wealth
Black: Mystery, Elegance, Evil
Grey: Moody, Conservative, Formality
White: Purity, Cleanliness, Virtue
Brown: Nature, Wholesomeness, Dependability
Tan or Beige: Conservative, Piety, Dull
Cream or Ivory: Calm, Elegant, Purity

Warm colours include: red, orange, yellow and variations of these three colours. They resemble fire, autumn, sunsets, sunrises, positivity and happiness. Both red and yellow are primary colours with orange between them. These can be used within design to reflect passion, happiness and energy. 

Red is a popular colour with branding, but it can also be associated with violence and blood. Research has shown that red has actually been seen to enhance human metabolism and raise blood pressure! Red has different meanings in different cultures also. In China for example, red is the colour of prosperity and happiness. In South Africa, however, red is the colour of mourning.

The perfect way to use red in your branding or design is to use it as an accent colour. Small doses of it, as call to actions or hover over colours is a great way of introducing it into your design without it being overwhelming

Orange is associated with Autumn and sunsets and rises. It's a vibrant colour that can represent change or health. Like red, orange is a colour that can be very dominant and works better as an accent colour. However, it can be very strong colour to bring attention to your brand and any call to actions you might have.

Yellow is considered the brightest of the warm colours and can be associated with hope, and happiness. Yellow in it's brightest form could be too bright for company branding, but there are lighter and softer shades of it that work quite well. Dark yellows echo a gold colour which can give a high end feel to a brand, or they could be used in a design that is more vintage styled. A pastel yellow is often used as a gender neutral colour for those steering away from either pink or blue.

Cool colours include: Green, blue, and purple. These are more often associated with colours of night, water and nature. They tend to be calming and relaxing.

Green is very popular with companies that have an eco-friendly aim or are nature/ garden related. It's fresh, it represents vitality and green living, and can be used in a number of shades from emerald to lime green.

Blue is a popular colour in design. It's very corporate and there are many companies that use it in it's varying shades. Sky, LinkedIn, Faceboo, Twitter and IBM all use blue, and it is seen as a formal colour in darker shades, and a friendlier feel in it's lighter shades.

The meaning of blue is widely affected depending on the exact shade and hue. In design, the exact shade of blue you select will have a huge impact on how your designs are perceived. Light blues are often relaxed and calming. Bright blues can be energising and refreshing.

Purple is a colour that has been associated with royalty. It’s associated with creativity and imagination, too. Purple can be a choice for luxury companies or high end products. Whereas lavender and lilac tones are often used in beauty or pampering designs. A slate purple is a popular colour for people that are looking for something more understated with a feminine undertone.

Pink is a colour often chosen for companies that are leaning towards the female market. But not always! It can be used as a brilliant accent colour for call to actions. Recruitment and sales companies have often times used pink just because it's the colour they'd be least likely to pick.

Neutral colors are often used as the basis of a design. They’re commonly combined with brighter accent colours. But if you want to use a neutral colour in your branding, it's important to take a look at their associations too, because even neutral colours have meanings and moods.

Black is a commonly used neutral colour. It's associated with power, elegance, and formality. It can also be associated with being outdated and old fashioned (as in black and white movies.) Depending on your industry this could be a good or bad thing. It can also give a very high end feel, like that of a black tie dress code. It can give a very sleek look to a website. Product websites for example don't favour a black design because you want your products to be the main focus of attention, which is normally achieved on a white backdrop with coloured buttons. It's important to think of your target audience too.
White is at the opposite end of the spectrum from black, and in the same way is great with the use of an accent colour. White is often associated with purity, cleanliness, and virtue. A lot of websites that sell products use a white background, and so do clinical websites such as dentists, doctors and surgeons.

It can help to convey cleanliness and simplicity and is popular in minimalist designs. It can make any accent colour take centre stage, meaning call to actions and buttons that you want people to click are easier and clear to see. Designs that are minimal tend to suit a certain type of industry though, so it's important to take a look at design examples using your colour scheme to see what they've done too.

Grey is a colour that has risen in trend.  It can sometimes be considered moody or depressing but light shades of it used alongside other colours can look really sleek. Dark greys can be used instead of the heavy contrast of black, to be less harsh in design. It is usually a formal colour but can give a website a modern feel to it also. Corporate designs favour shades of grey, as it's sophisticated.

Brown is a colour often used in trade services such as carpenters and flooring solution companies. Brown is associated with the earth, wood, and stone. Not only is it a natural colour but it can be warm too.

It’s also seen in wood textures and sometimes in stone textures. A dark brown can be quite formal, where a lighter shade of brown can lend itself to a more modern feel.

There are plenty more colours that you can use, and it's a great idea to take a look at a palette tool to show what colours go together and which contrast.