Influence of Color

By Pat Verlodt

The color of things around us is often taken for granted. It seems there is a large majority of people who don’t give a second thought to the colors around them, they think they fell out of the sky. Very little thought is given to why colors affect us or even the fact that they really do influence us.

Since today’s methods of communication has evolved into Web based advertising, it is important that you convey your business’s message in the most appropriate way with the most appropriate colors.

We appreciate color in our surroundings, such as the appreciation of a blue sky, a grassy knoll or a garden full of colorful blooms. Most of us are sensitive to the color we wear; although many wives claim their husbands are color blind. We are affected by colors in our personal environments but often do not understand why we dislike or feel uncomfortable in one room and feel relaxed and contemplative in another. Color plays a very important role in our lives and the right color for your company’s image is absolutely crucial.

Advertising gurus know the value of good color selections in the marketplace, as do designers of the products they tout. Our buying habits can be biased by the careful use of color. The appropriate color can make the difference between a best seller and a dud. So where do you fall? What can you do to improve your image in the marketplace or on the Web?

Since yellow pages offer no opportunity for the use of color then Web pages and advertising collateral are the obvious vehicles to employ the principles of good color use.

What are the “correct” colors? Blue Moods: A large part of a color’s message is part of our own built in instincts of what a color means. We are often reminded of tranquility when we see blue, as it is representative of blue skies and calm blue waters. Human beings are drawn to water as a primordial instinct–we need it to live and it makes up a large part of our matter and being. When asked to think of a place that comforts and relaxes us most people will say an ocean or lake view, a waterfall or a clear sunny day–all with the color blue in common. Blue is also one of the first colors we see as infants and on the side of physics, blue is on the low end of the visible spectrum and therefore less jarring. Blue comes in many forms from red side blues that include periwinkles and cobalt blues to deep midnight blue, navy, sky and baby blue. The green side of blue includes aquas and peacock blues.

Bright blues are eye catching and make an impact. They make good backgrounds for white copy; light and soft blues are good backgrounds for black copy. Subdued blues, such as navy and dusty blue, are more serious and trustworthy.

Green, the Color of Money: Green is often connected with the memory of green grass and trees; it is the color of new growth, health and vitality. Green as a color denotes friendship and conversation. Banks use green because it is comforting while at the same time it reminds us of money. It can be a high end green such as forest green or a jazzy green such as lime. Bright greens can catch the eye but they do not convey the idea of quality and value, stick to dark green for that reaction

Yell for Yellow: Bright yellow is the most visible and eye catching color, and it is a perfect background for black copy. It is a warm, sunny, exciting color and is connected with youth, vibrancy and outgoing personalities. It is a major component in fast food signage, along with orange and red because it excites and expresses speed. Yellow combined with white loses its impact and is good in large amounts due to its brightness.

Orange You Glad: This warm shade is often misunderstood. It is associated with inexpensive products, i.e.: Howard Johnson signage. It is associated with autumn and therefore the end of a season. It currently is enjoying an up trend in fashion, but that usually doesn’t last long. It is homey and can be exciting in its brighter shades and is traditional in the terra cotta shades. Peach and tangerine shades are more feminine than the deeper rust shades.

Red is Ready: Red is a very common color to find in graphics and signifies passion and power. It falls in the far end of the visible spectrum and therefore can agitate in large amounts for long periods of time. It loses its power in the light shades for rose and pink and takes on a sweet, feminine persona.

Purple Power: This hip shade is a newcomer to many markets. It was once thought of as a feminine color then the line dividing male and female colors was obliterated and it appeared on automobiles, once thought to be a male dominated product. It also appeared in men’s clothing such as ties and shirts and most of all on sporting goods for both sexes. It has the reputation of being regal and royal but also youthful and fun. Children often pick purple as their favorite color.

Putting it Together: Colors never stand alone; they must always be used with other colors. Putting the right colors with the wrong colors can destroy their impact, so follow these simple rules:

  1. Select background colors that are a strong contrast to the copy used with them, such as black on white or yellow, light letters on dark backgrounds.
  2. Select a color that you feel gives your message impact. If you stress trust then use blue, if you stress excitement use yellow, etc.
  3. Look at color combinations used in current advertising for influence, such as the yellow, orange and red used by fast food restaurants to indicate speed and efficiency; red, white and blue for patriotic. Red, yellow and blue are considered youthful.
  4. Use colors of the same temperature together to reinforce a feeling. Blues and greens together are soothing. Reds and yellows together are bold and exciting.
  5. Use opposite colors for impact. Colors that are a mix of a warm color and a cold color can create impact and interest, such as blue and yellow together.
  6. Avoid using colors that have a history or other meaning such as red and green (Christmas), orange and aqua (Howard Johnson’s), etc. Color is part of your life whether you like it or not, so use it to your advantage to send silent messages to your clients via your Web page or advertising material.

Pat is president of Color Services and Associates, Inc., a color consulting firm. She can be contacted at

[From Connection Magazine – May 2001]

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