Colour Theory, part 1 : The meaning of colour

An open pantone colour book displaying various colours

The correct use of colour in design can be a very effective way to create different moods and emotions. ‘The right’ colour scheme can be the most powerful element within a design when used correctly.

The way in which people perceive colours is very subjective, and can vary from person to person. What evokes a reaction or feeling in one one person, may evoke a totally different reaction in someone else depending on factors such as life experience, personal preference and cultural background. For years, designers have studied colour theory and its psychological effects in order to help them effectively create certain moods or feelings about the products or services they are promoting. Creating the right colour palette should always be the first part in the design process, as using appropriate colours can help re-enforce the brand message.

What do colours mean?

Listed below are the meanings that are often associated with certain colours.

The colour black

Black – Black can convey power, authority, and strength. It is a colour that does not fall in or out of fashion. It can used effectively in design to emphasize other colours such as red, yellow or white.

The colour white

White – White represents purity, and goodness. It can also represent coldness and winter. It is often used a background colour to emphasize text, or to create a clean, minimalist design.

The colour red

Red – Red is a very effective colour for attracting attention. Red traffic lights tell us to stop. Red break lights on a car tell us to slow down and seeing red blood means we are injured. On the other hand red is the colour of love, making red a very versatile and popular colour.

The colour orange

Orange – Our favourite colour and the colour of our logo! Orange conveys warmth, energy and creativity.

The colour yellow

Yellow – Yellow is the colour of sunshine and is associated with joy, happiness and energy. It is also a colour that is used in signs and nature to symbolise danger. Like red, it is a versatile colour that can have different meanings dependent on the context.

The colour blue

Blue – Blue is regarded as a safe colour as most of moods it evokes are positive. Blue represents reliability, cleanliness, trust and is associated with tranquility and calmness. Dark blue is associated with intelligence, reassurance and trust and is a preferred colour for large corporations. It can also represent depression (e.g. feeling blue).

The colour green

Green – Green symbolises growth, health and luck. Green is directly associated with nature and is widely used to promote evironmentally friendly products.

The colour purple

Purple – Purple is a colour that is often associated with royalty. It symbolises power, luxury and wealth. It is also associated with magic and mystery.