Color Psychology, Part 2: The Secret Power of Color

5 years ago

Working Up to Brand Color

When I work with a new client to brand or re-brand their company, I always discuss color FIRST. Why? Because the first logo draft I provide my clients is always black and white. So, in reality, I end up explaining the power of color long before color choices are made.

I do this for two really good reasons:

  1. At some time in that logo’s lifespan, it will likely appear somewhere without color (maybe even just on a photocopy – who knows). So, that logo needs to stand strong on its own (without color), meaning it must always perform well for the company, color or not.
  2. During brand development, adding color too soon can confuse the decision making process. An excellent, well-designed logo can be rejected on a whim, only because of the wrong color choice.

From Wikipedia:

“The general model of color psychology relies on six basic principles. First is that color can carry specific meaning. Second, color meaning is either based in learned meaning or biologically innate meaning. Third, the perception of a color causes evaluation automatically by the person perceiving. Fourth, the evaluation process forces color motivated behavior. Fifth, color usually exerts its influence automatically. Last, color meaning and effect has to do with context as well.”

Post image for Color Psychology, Part 2: The Secret Power of Color

Color Choice: More Than Just Preference

SO, by the time a brand identity designer meets with you, you’ve already made up your conscious (and unconscious!) mind about certain colors. If I pick a color right away (even a color you might like), I risk hitting an emotional color nerve. Say you said you like blue, but I chose the wrong shade of blue? After that point, you’ll never see the design for the design’s sake, and you risk missing out on your best brand ever.

Your brand’s color should be chosen because the color speaks to your target audience, but it’s much more likely you will choose a color inside your comfort zone. So when it comes to your brand, it’s important to recognize when these two ideas conflict!

Color has that much power! Absolutely.

Color Psychology – the more we know…

There’s a reason even toddlers instantly recognize the golden arches: that red background color. Red has been shown to increase both appetite and excitement. (Plus, yellow is often seen as a ‘happy’ color.) So yes, there are very specific reasons why McDonald’s has an incredibly powerful brand. And unsurprisingly, color choice has a whole lot to do with that. The color red has an almost hypnotic effect on us, as it implies the conflicting emotions of love and anger. Red spurs people to action, but it takes us in a little slower, due to that temporary hypnotic state.

…I could go on and on about just the color red. Who knew one color could have so much influence? Amazing, isn’t it?

Color goes undercover, grabs at your guts to seek out strong memories – and adheres to them for the rest of your life. Frequently this process goes unnoticed, despite the fact that our color preferences often seem arbitrary or illogical – we simply have preferences and we don’t often question why that might be….until recently. Color psychology is a surprisingly young discipline, with interesting insights discovered regularly. Researchers across a variety of fields continue to study color preferences across gender, age, culture, nationality and much much more.


Concerned about your brand’s color and how it may be affecting, influencing, or speaking to your target market? If you’re not, you should be! Look for an exciting new ebook on color, coming soon from The Branding Spot. We’ll go in-depth and reveal much, much more on the secret power of color! In the meantime, get a custom critique on your brand, brand color and branding materials by getting a Brand Alignment.

Nora D. Richardson
Brand Identity Designer • Speaker • Consultant

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