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The Psychological Effects of Colour in Design

The Psychological Effects of Colour in Design

The human eye can see millions of colours. They are all around us and influence us constantly, playing a pivotal part in triggering our actions and on a daily basis, responsible for various behaviours and decisions we make.

The use of colour, is not just about making something look pretty, it’s about the reaction it evokes. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colours in 1666. Whilst it has evolved and been adapted over time, the colours within this spectrum have always resonated with us on different levels.

In the world of brand identity, colour psychology is involved in everything. The key to success is not only to understand what each colour means from a psychological perspective but learning how to inspire, invigorate and engage your target market. Colour plays an essential role in creating a strong first impression for your customers. But crucially it’s not a case of one size fits all; colour psychology isn’t an exact science. Individuals will emotionally respond in different ways depending on diversities in culture, taste and association so perception can vary.

Image credit: Huffington Post

Red

Passion, youthfulness, energy, power, strength, excitement, desire, boldness

Red offers diversity and can take on a variety of meanings though the unifying factor is the sense of importance.  It is a colour best used cautiously. Due to its attention-grabbing properties, it’s a priceless tool in the world of promotion but used excessively it will inhibit relaxation.

Orange

Courage, confidence, friendliness, success, innovation, cheerfulness, creative, enthusiasm

Orange is a colour that doesn’t hold back. Used correctly, it can stand out in a crowd. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort and sensuality. As its intermediate positioning between red and yellow, orange combines the reaction between the physical and the emotional.

Yellow

Brightness, optimism, friendliness, joyfulness, warmth, energy, clarity, creativity

As the colour of the sun, yellow creates an energetic vibe. It is able to stimulate and revitalise and it’s therefore easy to understand why it evokes feelings of optimism and clarity, lifting our spirts and self-esteem. Whilst lighter shades play on the happiness aspects associated with summer and sun, darker shades add more weight giving a sense of antiquity. Used incorrectly through and it can represent warning and raise levels of anxiety.

Green

Freshness, environment, health, healing, peacefulness, growth, renewal, harmony

Being the centre of the spectrum, green is the colour of balance. It is the bridge between the stimulating, warmer colours such as red and orange and the calming, cool colours of blue, offering reassurance and an air of stability. It provides a serene and peaceful tone, conveying the idea of growth but used in the wrong way it can indicate stagnation and blandness.

Blue

Tranquillity, security, integrity, strength, trust, intelligence, masculinity, dependence

Blue offers much versatility, suggesting trust, evoking calmness and safety as well as being socially friendly and inviting. With its ability to offer more range than other colours, there are contrasts in what it can represent at opposing ends of the scale. Light blues generally have a refreshing and energising personality, calming the mind and aiding concentration. Whereas dark blues are much more sombre, pointing towards security and trust stimulating clear thought.

Purple

Spirituality, luxury, creativity, wealth, vision, imagination, truth, wiseful

With its historical association with royalty, purple represents luxury and is an effective way to create the sense of elegance and high-end appeal. It conjures images of grandeur and opulence, activating the imagination to provide an experience beyond the ordinary. It carries with it a sense of wisdom and takes awareness to a higher level of thought. Lighter shades bring to mind a spiritual and sensual essence whilst darker shades can suggest mystery and intrigue.

Pink

Healthy, nurture, happiness, femininity, sweet, compassion, playfulness, sexuality

Pink is stereotypically targeted towards the female market but if its use is over accentuated, it can become emasculating, losing its intended effect. Whilst the neighbouring red stimulates, pink meanwhile offers a sense of soothing and nurturing. It can also link towards innocence and works well both visually and psychologically with red and purple.

Brown

Earthy, outdoors, longevity, conservative, comfort, stability, seriousness, nature

Under the right circumstances, brown can be an effective branding colour. It is a primarily organic natured colour associated with earth and trees. When utilised in muted tones, it can produce a classier, more human emphasis. In addition, with its hues of red and yellow as well as its inclusion of black, it can offer similar yet more forgiving and less suppressive elements of seriousness. It is a solid, reliable colour that is found to be quietly supportive.

Black

Elegance, class, protection, mystery, sophistication, substance, glamour, safety

Black adds an air of sophistication and elegance with a very bold confidence. Creating protective barriers, it absorbs energy, enshrouding personality. It is another example that offers diversity; on one hand can appear menacing and even instilling fear but on the other it provides absolute clarity and uncompromising excellence.

White

Goodness, innocence, purity, freshness, ease, clean, sterility, simplicity

While black is the absence of light, white is the literal opposite and the two polar contrasts often work perfectly in unison together. By reflecting light, psychologically it can create barriers but also provides purity and cleanliness. Visually it creates a heightened perception of space.

Grey

Security, reliability, intelligence, solid, neutrality, balance, calm, stability

Intermediately positioned between black and white, grey exudes neutrality. It therefore lacks sensation and often doesn’t excel as a primary colour in branding. It is the only colour that has no direct psychological properties and unless it is used right it can compromise other colours it is used with. However, alone it can exude traditionalism and professionalism, suggesting intelligence and reliability.

Key considerations for colour usage in branding

Customer preferences

Consider the market you are targeting and understand their preferences. Genders, cultures and ethical diversities can make a considerable difference. Also evaluate your product or service and identify the links between them and your target audience.

Customer expectations

Look at your brand history, it’s positioning and personality. How do you want your customers to perceive you? Look at relevance within your industry and understand what is appropriate and what isn’t.

Brand messaging

Use colour that matches the emotions and characteristics that your brand is trying to portray. Look at your value proposition and see if it resonates with any specific colours. Think about the associations that people are most likely to make.

Competitor colours

Research your competition and see how they position their branding. It can be tempting to roll with the clichés but it is better to stand out than blend in. But instead of just selecting the brightest shade, examine what works best between your customers and your products.

Authenticity

Think about how you can portray yourself in an authentic way using colour in your branding. It is important to remain authentic as customers often act with intuition when they see a brand and if the colours don’t connect effectively, they may go elsewhere.

Consistency

In order to solidify the image of your brand in your customers’ minds, it is crucial that colour usage in your brand remains consistent over time. This can be ensured through development of brand guidelines.

Summary

To summarise, colour usage in branding can have a significant impact on how well you are able to convey your branding message and connect with your target audience. Underestimating the psychology of colour in branding can have a devastating impact. There’s much more to consider than just personal preference so before you launch your brand, take a step back and evaluate the implications of your options. By investing time in the consideration of your options, you’re much more likely to end up with something that resonates with the audience you are aiming it towards and will pay dividends in the long run for your business.

Small Agency vs Large Agency: Why Bigger Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

Small Agency vs Large Agency: Why Bigger Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

When it comes to deciding on who you’re going to approach to design and produce the branding and marketing material that you inevitably require to help give your business its best chance for growth and success, where do you start?

Nowadays, through the evolution of technology, there is a saturated presence of design agencies all competing with one another and it can often become somewhat overwhelming to know where to begin. They all have their own value proposition, promoting why they think their offering is superior to the competition. But there is one factor in particular that we’d like to highlight in this article; size.

Tall oaks from little acorns grow… it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to grow a business, that goes without saying. Within the creative industry, the larger design agencies will have a workforce possessing just about every relevant job title you can imagine. They will have specialists in each department with intricately honed skills that make them highly proficient in a range of key areas for their role. But does this setup necessarily make it a better proposition than a smaller agency which regularly sees its staff multitasking and stepping outside their standard remit of responsibilities?

With over 35 years of industry experience between them, Creative Fire’s two founding partners have had the fortune of experiencing first hand the operations at both ends of the spectrum. Whilst a studio with 100+ staff can give a design agency status and help to give an indication on its success as a thriving business, with so many links in the chain to take a project from brief through to realisation, communication can suffer breakdowns which can in turn compromise the delivery of the end product. From experience of working at some of the leading branding agencies in the UK, we have identified that information fed through from a client can be interpreted differently and specific key criteria can be neglected depending on the knowledge and understanding that a particular individual has. Whilst we must not ‘tar everyone with the same brush’, a pedigree project manager, being the front of house, face of the company may typically prioritise in ensuring that requested deadlines are met and they may overlook the technical limitations and implications to what a client has requested. Such a drawback can delay and inconvenience proceedings, damaging long standing reputations and in the worse case scenario cost a client financially.  At the same token, a designer may not possess the polished manner that a project manager would have spent years perfecting in how they present themselves to the client which doesn’t cast the company’s image in the best light.

Granted you can’t be a master of all trades; if it were that easy we’d all be sipping Dom Perignon from the top deck of a yacht in Monte Carlo but that’s not to say that we can’t identify and utilise the top line, key skills that are required to ensure that a client always receives their product on time, on brief and with minimal fuss. They’re not interested in the square footage of your office space or how you’re just about to open your fifth office in Europe. The sole fundamental factor to them is simplicity and that you can deliver on your promises in the most straightforward and painless way possible.

Quality

At Creative Fire, we created an agency that focuses on putting our customers first through streamlining the design journey by amalgamating stages and refining processes. In doing so, our designers are on hand to guide them through this journey from the very beginning to the very end. Furthermore, our clients have often stated that by dealing solely with the creative through the duration of their project, it provides clarity and confidence, safe in the knowledge that they know there is no risk of information getting lost in translation as it gets fed through from one department to the next.

Value

We are not defined by departments. Our designers are hybrids, skilled on a multi-disciplinary level. By keeping our overheads tight through streamlining and avoiding these phases that we consider to be obsolete, it also means that we can strip back our costs therefore offering a much more cost effective service to our customers. Larger agencies often use their status to justify inflated fees. We simply do not do that.

Speed

The one remaining aspect that determines the efficiency of an agency is how quickly they can act to deliver. By removing links in the metaphoric chain that is required to ensure your vision to be realised, we are able to deliver our projects to our customers faster. Rather than a brief being passed from one department to the next, there is just one handover; from the customer to the designer. In turn, we have managed to perfect a blend between quality, value and speed.

We’re not just another small time, local provider of design solutions. The market is inundated with young pretenders claiming to have the answer to your branding or marketing needs, often with poorly considered strategies. We may be small but what we lack in size, we make up for with our big agency mentality and have the experience to cover that. It’s a little bit like panning for gold; by sieving out all the stones and dirt, you’re left with (if lucky) a golden nugget – and that’s what we’ve done with Creative Fire.

How Well Can We Remember Brands?

How Well Can We Remember Brands?

The success of business is fundamentally built on the foundations of brand awareness. The ability for us to mentally note a brand and lock that snapshot away in the memory bank to be able to identify it indefinitely is what enables it to thrive; through marketing campaigns we develop a familiarisation with brands and providing we are able to connect with them, we learn to trust them.
But even with the most established of worldwide brands, how accurately are we able to remember them from memory? You would imagine with such high profile, blue-chip examples, there is so much opportunity to see them each day meaning that remembering the simplest of details would be a foregone conclusion. But it is not as straightforward as you may think. Based on the results below, it’s more challenging than you would imagine to memorise these ubiquitous emblems.

Through research undertaken by Signs.com, we take a look at six international brands that can be considered as household names in the UK; Apple, Ikea, Adidas, Burger King, Dominos and Starbucks. These are prime examples of businesses who through growing reputation and success, continue to maintain a solid marketing drive, consistently ensuring that their brand is universally never far from the forefront of our minds.

 

When it comes to the manifestation of a brand, there are many factors to consider; shape, colour, typeface and all the unique little touches that are used to give it personality. It’s unsurprising to see that the brandmarks with the most accurate recreations are the ones with the simpler appearances. But in the more complex examples used,
recalling all of this information is not as straightforward as you would expect. As Sherlock Holmes once said, we “see but do not observe.” In the context of this article, we remember just enough of a brand’s appearance to be aware of its presence but recalling the finest of details is not necessary for us to be brand aware. But why aren’t we able to do this? Despite seeing something many times, we fail to create a lasting memory of it; this is something that has been dubbed “inattentional amnesia”. It is evident that one of the stronger areas we are able to recall is colour. Even with an example like Burger King with its trio colour palette, an added complexity like this doesn’t cloud our memory quite as much as you would expect. In contrast, we are weaker at retaining memory on a brandmark’s shape; in the case of Starbucks, remembering the intricate details of the iconic mermaid are a step to far for many.

Ultimately, the goal with branding is to find the sweet spot between something that can be easily remembered whilst being distinctive enough to ensure that it doesn’t just blend in with the competition. With the experiment that Signs.com conducted, it proves that even with the most established of brands, human biology stands in the way of us having the ability to create a photographic memory of them so limitations will always exist.

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