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Blog Author: Stephen Wheeler

Why am I Blue — The Psychology of Colour in Advertising Design

Stephen Wheeler

Posted: May 2, 2013

Have you ever stopped and wondered why the environment is ‘green’? Why information and technology use ‘blue’? How can ‘red’ be a warning and attraction at the same time? You probably haven’t given it more than a passing thought. Like most people, you take it on face value that certain colours mean certain things. We form these associations out of habit: that’s the way things are and that’s how they will always be. The truth of the matter is far more complex. The human brain and how it perceives and responds to the colour spectrum has been studied by researchers and utilized by marketers for many years.

Sociological Meaning
In society, colours play an important role in our everyday lives. Over time, we have come to formulate long-standing associations with certain hues that are permanently part of our collective consciousness (or sub-consciousness). For example the color purple is the colour of royalty and connotes luxury, wealth…but why? The answer is as simple as it is underwhelming. At a time when Europe was rampant with nobility, purple dye was the most difficult to produce and thus the most expensive. Therefore anyone wearing purple was considered part of the noble classes.

Have you ever wondered why the police wear dark blue uniforms? That colour is commonly associated with authority and command in many countries around the world, but the actual history of the pairing is amost mundane. The famous London police force, commonly referred to as ‘bobbies’, were issued dark blue uniforms to differentiate themselves from the military that wore red and white at the time. People have a natural deference to someone who is sharply dressed, and they also associate darker colours with being smartly attired. Dark blue also helped hide stains. That’s it. So now the question remains, do we associate dark blue with authority or have we associated authority with dark blue?

Psychological Meaning
Our brains are constantly processing visual cues that we are barely even aware of, yet it impacts many of our decision-making processes every single day. Take red for instance; we all know red has impact. It is the colour of excitement, passion and warmth. Physically, it increases our heart rate and respiration, stimulates the ‘fight or flight’ response, and because red is the longest wavelength in the visible spectrum; our eyes perceive red objects to be closer than they actually are. It literally grabs your attention.

If we examine the flip side, blue is the colour we associate with the mind. Our blood pressure drops when we see blue and our brains produce chemicals that make us feel calm and tranquil. Studies have shown that people concentrate better in blue rooms, not only mentally, but physically as well. Researchers have proven that weightlifters have a greater lifting capacity in a blue environment. Due to its wavelength, blue seems distant and serene, causing a more positive reaction to people who wear it. They are perceived as loyal, relaxed and intelligent — which makes it a popular choice for a first date or a job interview and why it is commonly picked as a persons favorite colour.

What does it mean for you?
With so many colours to choose from it’s a wonder we can even get dressed in the morning, and when choosing a company’s brand colours, the problem increases ten-fold. Green can mean environmentally friendly but is also the colour for something toxic or radioactive. Yellow can be happy and welcoming unless it is a warning sign to stay away. Blue can be unappetizing, black can be considered depressing, orange garish, and brown can be considered drab and yet is very trendy! Suffice it to say that colour is the consistent minefield designers have to tip-toe through every day for our clients. It is a necessary journey and the best designers enjoy the challenge, embracing this match of aesthetic wits with a smile.

And this is just a taste of the thought process we designers go through to create a colour palate for your brand identity, and all the materials and assets built to support it. At OPEN Communications, we understand that when it comes to your brand, your assets, your image, no detail is trivial. Everything factors into the end result. Because we are framing your world. No matter what colour it is.