Psychology of Color

Elizabeth Dargan

Student Projects, Color

 

Introduction

Scientifically, We see color because our eyes are picking up varying wavelengths of light that are reflected or refracted off or in an object or substance. Our eyes send the information they have received to our brains and the information is then translated into concepts that we understand like emotions or other associations we might make with a certain color. Color has different connotations in different cultures because much of how we react to a certain color is affected by what ideas we were taught to associate with different colors. People in all walks of life use these color associations to chose colors for different purposes whether they realize it or not. Many people use common attributes that the public associates with color in interior decorating, fashion, and advertising.

Background

There are many strong color association in our culture today. Red is the color of emotion; be it love, passion, anger, or agitation. Blue is one of the most common colors because we associate it with the sky and water. It is a tranquil color that often reminds people of coolness or refreshment. Blue also signifies loyalty. It can also have negative connotations; too much blue can cause feelings of depression or "the blues." Black is on of the strongest colors. It portrays power and authority. We think of black as a common color to represent mourning. It can also be a sign of someone who is overbearing or even evil. This is why in many movies the antagonist or villain often dresses in black. Green is a relaxing color. It is associated with color and life and is considered to be refreshing. It is also the color of our money so it can symbolize wealth or greed; hence the saying "green with envy." Paintings of Kings and Queens often show the subjects adorned in rich purple clothes. Purple has always been a royal color, representing wealth, luxury, and sophistication. We associate the color yellow with light and warmth and sunlight. It is commonly referred to as an optimistic or cheery color but, like red, it speeds up blood circulation so it can be agitating to some individuals after an extended amount of time. White is connected with innocence and is used almost consistently in wedding dresses and ceremonies in Western culture, symbolizing the purity of the bride. The connections that go along with these colors are utilized by many people in the workplace and even how they live their day-to-day lives.

 

Observations and Data

In Fashion, color is one of the main tools available with which to work. Black is popular in the fashion world because it is classic and slimming. Business suits are usually made with blues or grays signifying professionalism and loyalty. People will wear different colored outfits depending on what mood they might be in or what ideas they want to convey, such as red and sexy, pink and feminine, yellow and cheerful, etc.

Color is also an important aspect of interior design. The color of a room can make it appear larger, smaller, brighter, darker, and even alter the mood of an area. Greens and blues can slow the blood circulation therefore calming the spirits. This makes them a good choice in hospitals and doctor's offices. Red makes great accents, especially with furniture and other places one might want positive attention drawn towards. It speeds up our pulse, speeding up one's metabolism and boosting the appetite. For this reason shades of red are often used in restaurants to make people feel hungry or the food to seem more appealing.

Advertisers make great use of color, also. Depending on what kind of message they want to send to the public regarding the product in question, they will use different colors and color combinations. A common trick in advertising is to use bright or warm colors to draw attention to the commercial or sign. The attention-grabbing quality of warm colors is utilized in more than just selling things. Many important road signs or warning signs are orange (construction signs,) yellow (yield signs,) or red (stop signs and lights, sirens.)

Conclusions

Color affects us every day. We may not even pay attention to what is going on in our minds when we see a color, but something is definitely happening. Literally everywhere we look there is some kind of color and in each culture there are different associations with these different colors. If we can learn more about what colors mean to people, they can be used in all kinds of positive ways.

Links

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/colors1.html

http://psychology.about.com/library/weekly/aa031501a.htm

http://www.pantone.com/products/products.asp?idArticle=112&idArea=16

http://www.saunalahti.fi/jawap/colour/

http://www.catherinemcgivern.com/interiors/color_and_psychology.htm