Color Me Crazy:
An Exploration into Psychology and Color Theory Part 1

Have you ever walked into a room and suddenly felt energized? The type of place where as soon as you walked in, all of the sudden your mood changed and you were ready to take on the world? There may be a very simple explanation for your sudden burst of energy. Angela Wright, a psychologist who focused her work on how color affects the mind, published her findings. She postulated that there are four main personality types, and colors influence each of them in different ways. Basically, for every personality type there exists a “color family” which suits them.

By using the color family which best expresses a company, brand, or product, you can convey the characteristics you wish (example: a toy store will have a different color scheme than an insurance office because they want to convey different feelings to clients). It’s amazing how many things alter the way our brains work without our conscious knowledge. In the next two weeks, we will focus on the meanings behind basic colors and show some examples of their uses. Then, in a third blog, we will dive deeper into the four personality types and what color families compliment each of them. Maybe you can harness the power of color and spruce up your home office to boost your productivity.

Color meanings

Before we launch ourselves into the color families best for each personality type, we should recognize that almost every color will fall within a color family. Color families are determined by the hue (color), value (lightness or darkness of color tone), and chroma (strength or weakness of color) within the colors presented. Each color has special meaning in its own right, so let’s take some time to hash that out.

Red

Red is a powerful color. People who are drawn to red tend also to be drawn to excitement and may have bolder personalities. Representative of blood in many cases, red is considered a very physical color. It ties to the kinetic senses and may be useful for those who work with their hands due to its boldness. ESPN, the NFL, and the MLB, along with many individual sports teams and programs showcase power through their use of the color red.

Passion and romance are also characterized by red and can be powerful in that capacity. It has also been proven to increase blood flow, respiration, and blood pressure rates. Because of this, red triggers impulsivity, which is why many buttons reading “BUY NOW” show up in red. It is also why many retailers use red in their logos. For example, Target and H&M. Oddly enough, Netflix, a product which consumes much of America’s time, ties into the idea of impulsivity directly. How many times have you thought, “I have time for one more episode…” That’s the power of red.

Blue

Depth, tranquility, and loyalty are symbolized by the color blue. Think about insurance providers. Cigna, Blue Cross, United Healthcare, Allstate, Progressive, Pacific Life, Nationwide, and many other big name brands feature blue to showcase their trustworthiness. They subtly send the message to clients that they will provide excellent care. Intelligence is also portrayed by the color blue in many situations.

Children and young adult books are a great examples of this. In Harry Potter, the Ravenclaw house is supposed to value wit and they are identified by the color blue. The same goes for the Divergent series in which the Erudite faction wears blue clothes and values intelligence. These writers knew that by making a parallel between the color blue and wisdom, the idea is reinforced subconsciously so that they wouldn’t have to repeat the idea so frequently.

Yellow

Happiness and warmth come through when using yellow. The color of sunlight, it is often used as an instant mood booster. For this reason, many food manufacturers feature yellow in their logos. Sonic, Denny’s Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Lay’s potato chips, Burger King, Cheerios, Subway, and, of course, the golden arches themselves, McDonald’s, all use yellow for one simple reason.

They want you, the consumer, to equate their food with happiness. If their food creates happiness, it will cause you to buy their food more often. It is a subconscious ploy to associate products with joy which, at the end of the day, is why most people buy things in the first place: to make them happy. It is also associated with creativity and critical thinking due to its boldness. The lightbulb above the head of a cartoon character with an idea is a great example of this. If you ned new ideas, yellow is the color for you.

Green

Green is often a symbol of new life, growth, and harmony. Representative of the balance of nature, this color has a calming effect. This makes sense because it is a direct opposite of red on the color wheel; where red represents boldness, green negates it with tranquility. It is also considered a healthful color associated with physical wellbeing. This is because when expressing sentiments of new life, many people associate it with flowers and springtime; nature is full of green so people subconsciously see the color as representative of new life.

Consider companies with “green initiatives.” Green in this case is directly corollated to environmental health. After the BP oil spill of 2010, many environmental activist groups redesigned the BP logo from the green mandala-esque shape it holds to one covered in black sludge in an attempt to shame the company for, what many deemed, insufficient action to stop the oil from spreading. Green can also indicated self-reliance, individuality, morality, and, in some cases, materialism and greed.

Purple

Spirituality and imagination are symbolized through the use of purple. It is an introspective, pensive color which appeals to thoughtful people. It is also considered mysterious or fantasy-centered, focused on humanitarian efforts, and whimsical. Companies like Hallmark use purple as a way to provoke thoughtfulness and critical thinking. The SyFy channel recently rebranded their company with a purple logo which could symbolize the fantastical nature of the programming. Whimsy is easy to find when it comes to the color purple. Just take a look at some famous brands of candy! Wonka, Cadbury, and Milka all feature whimsical purple packaging to stand out from the crowd.

This week we featured some of the most popular colors used in advertising and the meanings behind them are pretty straightforward. Next week’s blog will discuss some of the more underutilized and underrepresented colors we see in the ads we encounter and will explore some of the reasons behind their use (or lack thereof). Then, in our final blog on color theory and the subconscious, we will attempt to unpack the personality of color theory as proposed by Angela Wright in her work. Whether branding yourself, a business, or simply creating a more inviting office space, you’ll have all the information you need after we finish unpacking color theory!