Colors are present in our daily lives, they influence our feelings, sensations, vibrations, emotions and behaviors. With all of this power, each color expresses different meanings, which are relevant to the construction of a product, layout or art, carrying, with it, the message that we want to convey.
With this in mind, in this article, we looking into a psychology study created precisely to study how the human brain identifies colors and transforms them into sensations or emotions, called Color Psychology.
The study of colors began a long time ago — it all started when Isaac Newton observed that a beam of white light, when crossing a prism, gave rise to other colors. From there, colors began to gain greater prominence as a field of study and science.
However, in 1810, the field began to gain more strength, when a poet, yes, a poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published the book “Theory of Color”, in which he confronted Newton’s ideas about light and color. Goethe argued that the sensations that colors awaken in us arise in our mind and are carved by our perception, that is, by vision and how our brain processes them. That is, they are more than just a physical phenomenon.
After a long time, about 200 years after the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s study, Eva Heller, a psychologist, sociologist and teacher, published a book called Wie Farben auf Gefühl und Verstand wirken (“The psychology of colors: how colors affect emotion and reason”). This work was the result of years of research and a study with 2 thousand people of both sexes, aged between 14 and 97 years, encompassing several other factors, such as social, cultural and financial differences. The results of the research showed that the relationships between colors and feelings do not “match” by chance and are the result of experiences fixed in our language and in our minds.
Thus, colors convey feelings that can affect people’s decisions, moods, opinions and other important factors. This makes all the difference when creating user interfaces.
What is Color Psychology, after all?
Color psychology is the field of study that shows how our brain identifies and transforms colors into sensations. It also shows the effects of colors on human behavior, since they are able to affect our emotions, feelings, desires and even decisions. Therefore, it is very important to know how to use colors, because each color can generate a different feeling in people.
Why use Color Psychology?
The effect of the psychology of colors in interface projects is very relevant, since the app’s look is the first contact that the user has with your platform or product and it is from there that they identify with your brand or not. The correct choice of colors ensures that your brand’s message comes across, inciting the desired types of behaviors and feelings, among other factors that users identify when looking at the interface of your app.
Well, let’s take a look at data showing that using psychology of colors can bring real benefits to your product. According to marketing studies, business and market analysis, we have the following data:
- 6% of participants said they place more importance on visual factors when purchasing a product (source: Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo 2004);
- 7% of consumers think color is key when choosing a product (source: Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo 2004);
- People tend to make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 Seconds of their initial viewing and between 62% and 90% of that evaluation is based solely on color (source: CCICOLOR-Institute for Color Research);
- Color increases brand recognition by up to 80% (source: University of Loyola, Maryland study).
In addition to this data, we have very interesting case studies. Two of them that have been highly reported:
In a Marketing experiment, the food company Heinz changed the color of the packaging of its flagship product, Ketchup, from red to green, in a limited edition run of the product. The result? Over 10 million jars were sold in the first seven months, resulting in a revenue of 23 million dollars, just by changing the color of the packaging. In addition to this milestone, it was the largest sales record in the history of the brand.
Another great case is that of Apple, which, in 1998, presented iMacs with multiple colors, standing out from the standard colors on the market. In just three months, sales revenue rose from 444 million to 1.152 million, turning the company around after two years of financial losses. The success was so great that Apple brought this variety of colors to its current products, such as iPhones, iPads and iPods. The latest is the iPhone 11, which has six different colors.
All of this is to say that, before your project really starts to come to life, this planning, study and research needs to be done, so that your goal is achieved and conveyed through the visual interface of your product — increasing its profitability, reach and appreciation by users.
Colors and feelings
Each color has its particularities and incites specific feelings in users. But, what meanings and uses each color carry?
The yellow color awakens confidence, optimism, clarity and creativity, and helps us in decision- making. In color psychology, yellow stimulates our mental fitness, activating the analytical and logical side of the brain, fostering logical and non-emotional decision-making. In addition, yellow helps memory, being the most visible color. Because of this, it is widely used in post-it notes and in the highlighter pens, to draw attention to important information.
In business, we use yellow to sharpen people’s creativity, helping them find new ways of doing things. We also use this color to get users to make decisions quicker, helping them think and act faster.
Red is a stimulating, energetic, flashy and intense color, often related to fire, passion and excitement. Its power is so great that it has the ability to stimulate the human body, causing an increase in blood pressure and heartbeat. With all these sensations and feelings, care for their use should be redoubled so that the message you want to send to users is compatible with its intention.
Because it is a stimulating color, the food industry uses this color to stimulate the appetite in consumers, in order to increase their sales. We have a great example, McDonald’s, which pplies the psychology of colors, using red in their interfaces and packaging.
The use of red color is also extremely importantly in digital interfaces. There, red is used when we want to signal some kind of error or alert. Thus, the interpretation of the message, based on its color, lets users know that something is wrong.
The orange color carries with it feelings of happiness, spontaneity, enthusiasm, energy, vitality, adventure and youth. In the psychology of colors, orange is a very optimistic and uplifting color, which encourages people to act and face challenges in life in a confident way.
In business, we use orange to suggest adventure, fun and signal optimism. In addition, it is a color widely used to stimulate sales in restaurants and other food businesses, as it stimulates appetite and conversation of consumers on site, bringing financial benefits to the owner.
It is worth noting that orange is a very attractive color and it is appreciated by young audiences, as it is associated with feelings of enthusiasm, energy and fun. As an example, we have Nickelodeon, a television channel that targets young people and whose identity is focused on the color orange.
Green is a color connected to nature, the environment, healthy living, relaxation, tranquility, new beginnings, renewal, peace and balance.
In interfaces, green can also mean success and permission, such as, for example, a message about an action performed that generated something positive for the user, such as a bank transaction that was successfully performed.
A brand that makes great use of the sensations incited by this color is Starbucks, a coffee shop company that, with its green identity, conveys calm and sophistication. The use of color goes beyond digital identity, as the physical environment of coffee shops tend to use green color to bring the feeling of peace and tranquility while you enjoy your coffee.
In addition to all this, a very interesting fact is that the green color can be used in healthcare, especially in hospitals, since it leaves patients more calm and relaxed and even reduce anxiety. Amazing, isn’t it?
Blue color conveys calmness, serenity and confidence, responsibility, honesty and loyalty. In color psychology, blue represents trust and responsibility. In addition, it brings peace and tranquility, providing people with physical and mental relaxation.
Blue is great in the corporate world and tends to be used by more conservative types of businesses, such as insurance agencies, banks and financial companies, to whom their customers’ trust is essencial.
The color purple carries with it a very special meaning and is a color that has stood out since ancient times. According to Eva Heller’s studies, in past centuries, purple was the color of power, of rulers, being even more powerful than using gold. Because of this, it became known as the royalty color. In addition this meaning, it incites imagination and creativity in people.
One of the great examples we have today, which is growing more and more, is Nubank, a Brazilian digital bank that has purple as its main color. According to Nubank itself, purple is a unique color, strong and with a lot of personality, expressing well what the app has as to offer.
Image: Nubank Website
The brown color is not much appreciated by consumers, according to Eva Weller’s research. However, if it is applied correctly, we can have a very secure interface that transmits confidence to users, since the main feeling that brown expresses security.
Brown is widely used as a reference for certain products, such as chocolate, which has a brown tone and is associated with this color easily. For this reason, we have many brown color interfaces in the chocolate business, such as Cacau Show, a Brazilian chocolate and candy store that uses this color in its interface, referencing its main product, chocolate.
In addition to this connotation, the brown color is widely used in products of agricultural, rural and farm areas, having as its main element of association with earth.
Picture: Cocoa Show Website
Black color is widely used in interfaces of luxury brands, conveying power, elegance, confidence and formality. Not only that, the color black is very popular right now because Dark Mode, a display mode that leaves the user’s vision less tired and even saves the battery of your phone, by using less light.
In addition to these benefits, Dark Mode makes the interface more refined and comfortable in the eyes of users. It is worth noting that, depending on the colors combined with black, its interface can convey a conservative, modern, elegant and sophisticated look.
Image: Apple Website
Image: Rolex Website
The color white is widely used in visual interfaces, especially when we want to highlight a specific color, image, product or other graphic element, because, as a neutral color, it directs the gaze to what you want to emphasize.
In addition, white conveys a sense of peace, simplicity, security, lightness, kindness and divinity. Its use is also linked to healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, dentists and other professions that wear an all-white, precisely to emphasize neutrality and signal calmness, harmony, cleanliness and hygiene.
Image: Apple Website
The correct choice of colors for your product should be informed not only by aesthetics, but by what is behind that color, to guarantee that the message you want to convey through your product is correctly received by users.
The use of color psychology can be seen in the case studies by Heinz, which, by changing the color of the ketchup packaging alone, saw an immense increase in sales, the largest sale in the brand’s history.
We have also seen interesting data, such as the information that 85% of consumers take into account the color of the product at the time of purchase and that for 80% of consumers, the color of the brand increases their recognition.
It is worth noting that if the colors are chosen improperly — not aiming at the message that the company wants to send — we have great losses to the product.
Thus, we see that the choice of color palette for a product should be very well thought-out. Color psychology is a powerful tool in this decision, helping a business develop the desired identity and message and thus achieve its audience and goals.