No, this is not a flashback to the psychedelic sixties. Instead, this is a serious discussion about color and how it can be used in marketing.

While perceptions of color are somewhat subjective, there are some color effects that have universal meaning. Colors in the red area of the color spectrum are known as warm colors and include red, orange, and yellow. These warm colors evoke emotions ranging from feelings of warmth and comfort to feelings of anger and hostility.

Colors on the blue side of the spectrum are known as cool colors and include blue, purple, and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also call to mind feelings of sadness or indifference. But, first a history lesson.

Ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or using colors to heal. Red was used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation. Yellow was thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body. Orange was used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels. Blue was believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain. Indigo shades were thought to alleviate skin problems.

Today, most psychologists view color therapy with skepticism and point out that the supposed effects of color have been exaggerated. Colors also have different meanings in different cultures. Research has demonstrated in many cases that the mood-altering effects of color may only be temporary.

Yet, when it comes to web design and creative work, colors define a business and a brand. When designing printed materials, logos, and websites, many factors come into play. One factor of great importance is color since your brand is expressed through your choice of color. Color evokes a mood or feeling and must be chosen carefully. It must be consistent with the image that you want to communicate to your target audience.

Red is a call to action, is aggressive and can be exciting. It is a great color for logos and for accents when it is used with other more neutral background colors. It can clash with green, blue, and purple. It is best used with other warm colors like yellow, brown, or orange. Red demands attention; it says stop and come look at me. It is too strong for a background color since it would be irritating or overwhelming.

Black can be a depressing, if not a mournful color. It feels heavy. Yet, it can also be sophisticated and alluring; it can feel luxurious and prestigious. It functions well as a backdrop for an artist’s work or with photographic images. It seems to go well with technical images or presentations. Black can be a great color for text on the website.

White is an excellent background for a professional business on a website. It denotes cleanliness, purity, and youth. It feels simple and innocent. Many of the best consumer websites choose white as the background of choice, Note that Google’s home page is white and very simple; they spell out the Google name in primary colors making it fun, if not child-like.

Green is the color of nature and the environment. Light green is a great background for professional service firms like a law firm or a CPA firm. Green communicates safety and encourages you to go forward. Bright green is trendy right now for high tech firms; it has a retro feel that reminds us of the sixties.

Blue can create an image of tranquillity and peacefulness. Light blue is a common background for service-based businesses such as consulting firms; it communicates a calm solution. Blue can be authoritative while dark blue is heavy and morose; think police officer. Medium blue can also be over-the-top and goofy.

Beige is a great neutral color, which speaks of conservatism. By itself it is boring or plain. Paired up with accent colors like green or brown or blue, beige is very readable. Beige can make a super background, if complemented with the right accent colors.

Brown is a great color for text in print and on a website. Generally, brown is viewed as earthy or natural, while to others it might be dirty or dingy. Brown works well with green. It can also communicate a natural or rural or primitive look. Brown is warm and comfortable.

Yellow is the most irritating color out there and is great for getting your attention, but use it sparingly. Many great logos use yellow (often paired with red). Yellow is the color of cowardice or caution.

When choosing a color, you should consider the 216 colors supported by web browsers. It is generally recommended that you start with color choices compatible with the web palette and then consider color on paper. Go to Google and enter the words “web palette” and you will find all 216 vibrant colors. If you start with color on paper, it might not be found in the web palette. Consistency is a huge factor in building brand awareness with logos.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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