Color is one of the most fundamental aspects of design. In fact, it’s so basic that we see and even interact with them every single time.
Whether we know it or not, color affects us on a daily basis. It alters our mood, gets our attention, and in many cases (which we aren’t even aware of), it affects our decision-making processes, especially our buying decisions. If you bought a plate that you don’t even need because the color is “cute”, then that’s one example of how color affects our decisions.
This relationship between color and human psychology is called color psychology. As a UI designer, especially if you design websites for businesses, it is important you learn how certain colors affect the mood and thinking processes of people. This is how you’ll maximize the website’s design to encourage people to buy its products or services.
There’s a reason why Coca-Cola’s main color is red; why PayPal’s main color is blue; and why Amazon’s main color is orange.
Of course, we cannot cover every color, but the basics are enough – the rest are mainly just variations of the basics, anyway.
The basic colors are:
- Color of Balance (Black, White, and Grey)
Without further ado, let’s get to know the meaning of these colors!
Red symbolizes energy, power, passion, love, danger, excitement and action. Red is so powerful and attention-grabbing that it’s considered as the most intense color in color psychology! This means that if you want your website to be very attention-grabbing, red is your go-to color.
A perfect example is Richard Branson’s Virgin; their brand’s main color is red, so is their website.
Red also tends to encourage appetite, hence it is used by food brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
Yellow revolves around the feelings of positivity, friendliness and optimism. It also has something to do with the season of summer and sunshine.
A perfect example of using yellow in a brand (and website) is McDonald’s. While it has a red background to encourage appetite, it uses yellow to convey friendliness and warmth. This smoothly matches their motto, “I’m lovin’ it”.
Combining red’s energy and yellow’s friendliness and optimism, orange is often a color for enthusiasm, creativity and adventure.
Although not as commanding as red, orange does have a certain sense of command. If red commands through energy and power, orange calls your attention with its sense of enthusiasm, adventure and cheerful friendliness.
Why do you think the biggest online retailer, Amazon, uses orange as their main color?
Because they want to convey enthusiasm and friendliness to their customers. They don’t want to be dry and sleek; they want you to see them as being approachable and fun to buy from.
Blue depicts reliability, calmness, dependability, stability and peace. In a way, blue is the opposite of red’s energy. If red makes you feel energize, blue makes you feel relaxed and be in the moment – this is the reason why taking a walk to a calm beach can be very relaxing.
Many companies and businesses use blue to convey reliability of their services. Financial businesses like PayPal and banks mainly use blue to convey that you can trust them with your money.
This time, let’s not go far away from web design: take WordPress and Bluehost for example! Both companies use blue to convey that their services are reliable, and that you can trust your website with them.
Green is mostly connected to nature and money. It symbolizes growth, health, fertility and generosity.
Because green is the color of nature, this is the perfect color if your website sells items for outdoor activities. Clearly, green is used by most environmental websites.
Green is also a color for money – especially dark green. This is connected to the fact that the color of a dollar bill is green.
One perfect example is Get Rich Slowly – a blog about personal finance and financial growth. The entire website’s color is mostly green!
Combining red’s energy and blue’s stability, calmness and reliability, purple is a color for royalty, nobility, wisdom and luxury. It is also a color of sophistication and power.
One perfect application of purple is Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad brand. From his books, website and just the overall brand, purple is their main color.
Although purple is the color of sophistication and luxury, it’s not as sleek as the color black, as you will later learn.
Color of Balance (Black, White and Grey)
These three colors – black, white and grey – are often related to balance, more or less. Since these colors often go together, we decided to just put them as one. But we will still learn them one by one.
Black is the symbol of sophistication, luxury and power. It is more sleek than purple, so if you want the simplicity of power and sophistication, black is the better option for you.
Luxury brands often use black. Take BMW’s website for example.
White is the opposite of black: it represents simplicity, purity and minimalism. Unlike most of the colors listed here, white is not often used for itself; it’s mostly used on negative spaces. But do not underestimate the impact of white.
If you want to convey a sense of simplicity and minimalism, use white as your website’s main background. For your website’s logo, you may want to use black. This is the typical color combination of plenty of minimalist’s blogs and websites – with white as the main color, of course. Take the blog The Minimalists for example.
Technically, grey is the color of balance – balancing the power of black and simplicity of white. Although this is often perceived as a dull color, this can represent luxury and sleekness when applied properly. Simply take Apple as an example.
Learning color psychology is essential if you want to influence the mood and decision-making processes of your visitors. Choosing the right color is essential to make this successful!
Although color psychology have laid out the basics of how color affects our psychology, you should remember to keep being flexible because the meanings and interpretations of each color isn’t final. For instance, different cultures and beliefs have different ways of looking at a certain color, say, color red. Nevertheless, understanding color psychology is one step in utilizing your design to maximize your optimization purposes.