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Graphic Design and Color Psychology

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

by Jessica Bourn

“It is impossible to imagine a color you have not seen.”

Neil Hilborn

Color theory has always been a topic of interest for me, so I thought I would write about color psychology and how graphic designers use it to create and build brands.

Have you ever noticed that some of the most popular fast food restaurants all have similar color schemes in their logos and branding? Red and yellow are the most common because of color psychology. Think about it- those are the colors you’re likely to see while eating their food. Red evokes a feeling of hunger, as well as other emotions like passion and even satisfaction. Yellow is bright and exciting. Orange, the combination of red and yellow, combines red’s power and yellow’s friendliness. The combination of these colors, along with our brains knowing we are about to chow down, have an effect similar to Pavlov’s dogs. The brain knows that these colors mean food!

Then we move to the cooler colors. Have you noticed that popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter implement blue into their appearance? Blue conveys a feeling of trust and calm- it is also the type of light that is given off by screens. Countless studies have been done that recommend putting the phone or screen away before bed, because blue keeps us alert and slows the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that signals our brain that it’s time for bed. Blue is the color of the sky during the day, which means we should be awake. Designers have picked up on this fact, and use it to keep you that much more engaged in their social media sites.

In branding, colors are not only for the visual appearance of products or services, but also brand recognition. Check out this list of a few common words associated with each color:

Red - Power, hunger, confidence.

Orange - Warm, inviting, energetic.

Yellow - Happiness, light, warmth.

Green - Growth, health, nature.

Blue - Trust, stability, purity.

Purple - Luxurious, knowledge, wealth.

Black - Reliable, sophisticated, experienced.

White - Simple, clean, fresh.

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