The Psychology of Colour

Words: Jennifer Dow

Colour psychology is the study of how colours impact our human behaviour, and colour is a powerful tool that can influence our emotions, decisions and perceptions. If we look across the world, colour does not have the same meaning, connotations and psychological effects; instead, it varies significantly in different cultures. Colour psychology is also largely influenced by personal preference; what does your message does your brand colour convey? 


Symbolises: purity, youth, cleanliness, innocence.
Brand: commonly used to create a 'blank canvas.' It is responsive to light making it appear brighter, more welcoming. Mixes well with all other colours

Symbolises: sophistication, wealth, elegance.
Brand: works well as an accent colour here 'less is more' gives a feeling of elegance. It has a grounding effect, giving the eyes time to rest.
Symbolises: peace, tranquillity, trust, security
Brand: lighter shades create calm whilst darker shades work well to convey trust and authority.
Symbolises: nature, spring, the environment, youth
Brand: lighter shade encourages creativity and peace whilst darker shades promote confidence, security and wellbeing
Symbolises: passion, strength, liveliness
Brand: can add feelings of luxury and elegance. It creates boldness and draws the eye when used against softer colours
Symbolises: nobility, spirituality, wisdom, enlightenment
Brand: softer shades are soothing, bringing nature and peace, whilst deeper shades convey luxury and elegance often associated with royalty
Symbolises: warmth, vibrancy, energy, enthusiasm
Brand: lighter shades are soothing and warmer whilst darker shades bring happiness and stimulation.  
Symbolises: joy, happiness, sunshine, hope
Brand: vivid shades are good for mental clarity and instantly brighten any space, whilst more golden shades promote cosiness and comfort.
Symbolises: love, calm, tenderness, acceptance
Brand: softer hues add mildness, warmth and comfort to any space, whilst deeper shades add flamboyance and boldness.

Don't ditch the black

Our colour preferences vary depending on factors we may not even be aware of, including personal experiences, our environment, and childhood. 

The connotations of the colour black vary since it is widely associated with both positive and negative ideas. A colour associated with confidence and power also evokes feelings of mystery and fear. Black is the result of the complete absence or absorption of light and contains no shades when found in its’ purest form. So technically, black is not a colour but a combination of all colours.

The concept of colour psychology has boomed within marketing and the media. Black is a popular choice for text thanks to its' easiness to read. Top designers like Chanel and Dior utilise this in their logos, creating a sense of power and sophistication. Research suggests it takes around 90 seconds to form an opinion of a brand. During this time, we match our emotional associations with the colours used to decide what we think of them. Black is also an effective colour for technology, such as cars, TVs and games consoles, since it causes them to appear sleek and of high quality. Black is the most popular vehicle choice since many think of it as powerful, mysterious, attractive and suggestive of being reliable and of high quality.

Black has travelled through history from a colour primarily associated with death and darkness to a fashionable and trustworthy indicator since, for many, it is confidence-boosting and flattering. Until Chanel transformed the 'little black dress' into an iconic wardrobe staple in 1926, it mainly existed as a death symbol. Of course, most cultures still consider black the most respectful and appropriate colour in mourning, but it is now much more versatile than it once was. Wearing black also suggests seriousness and professionalism, for instance, explaining why many don black suits to work. Black has become socially suitable for many different situations such as casual wear, work attire, funerals and business settings.

Black and white work well together as opposites, so you will often find them paired: white flowers at funerals contrast with dark clothing; black text appears confident and at home on white backgrounds. As children and indeed into adulthood for some, we're often scared of 'the dark', associating it with danger and the unknown. As adults, we realise just how versatile and meaningful black can be.

1 comment

Jun 28, 2023
Karen R

Wow, thank you for this, takes me back to my Feng Shui days. So interesting. I have a cerise pink for my main colour, attracting mainly women who come to my dog training.

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