What are the colors telling to graphic designers? If you are a graphic designer or intending to become one, you should know that you will work with colors possibly more than any other profession. Colors are not just colors – all of them have different aspects, and sometimes a thing that we can call a “personality.” What is meant by personality here is that all different colors describe something different. As a graphic designer or a graphic designer-to-be, it is your job to communicate through visuals and, of course, colors.
Learning more about what colors tells us and have a deeper understanding of colors will be helpful for you. It is crucial to learn about both the physical and perceived characteristics of colors to increase the user experience (UX) and conversation rate of whatever you designed as a graphic designer. Here in this article, you can find the color theory, the psychology of colors, and how the right use of colors can help you to increase the UX and conversion rate in any given website in terms of graphic design.
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One thing that any given graphic designer should know is color theory. There are endless color combinations, but the thing is, not all of them would be successful in terms of having an aesthetic look and giving the right message to people looking at it. All successful graphic designers use color theory as a base for their decision-making processes and to decide which look can be better while including all aspects into consideration. It might require time and practice to master color theory, but knowledge comes first before anything.
To understand the significance of color theory, it would be enough to look at our daily life. You do not need to only think of professionally designed websites and other things that include color – from your curtains to your socks. You can realize the significance that color brings to our everyday belongings. Anyone can detect how artificial and sometimes ugly looks the combination of different colors. At the same time, some combinations can give people a sense of calmness, harmony, and peace, whereas some provoke emotions such as anger or sadness. The color theory explains many possible outcomes and how to wisely use colors together.
One thing that anyone interested in color theory and especially graphic designers, should know is the color wheel. As you may already know, there are primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) as well as secondary colors. According to the level of being a primary or secondary color, there are two different models to describe those colors. The secondary colors include orange (red and yellow), green (blue and yellow), and purple (red and blue).
RGB stands for red, green, and blue. As you already know, green is not a primary color. You might be wondering why there was a need to create a model that includes a secondary color. The answer would be technology and electronic systems. RGB color model’s aim is to have a model for displaying and sensing images in systems such as computer screens, televisions, and phones.
All of the devices mentioned above and so many more electronic systems work according to the RGB color model. It is crucial to choose an RGB model on whatever platform or app you are using for graphic designing to have the best possible results. There are some basic equations in the RGB model that should be known to understand how reflection will end up looking like. The mixture of blue and green creates cyan blue, red and dark blue creates magenta, red and green creates yellow, and the mixture of green, red, and blue creates white.
Here is the answer to the question of ”What are the colors telling to graphic designers?”: Even though it can be difficult to detect in our daily lives, colors influence our emotions in a specific way in our daily lives. Big brands use the color theory in terms of influencing people’s emotions very efficiently – which are also affecting why they are big brands. For example, it is known that the color red is influential on increasing hunger, and it is commonly used in famous fast-food chains. It is possible that a couple of big fast-food chains came to your mind when this knowledge is presented to you. There are also many psychological kinds of research on how colors influence emotions, and subsequently, behaviors. It is crucial to understand how colors are associated with different emotions and to successfully implement this knowledge in graphic design.
It is also essential to understand the negative emotions that colors can bring in a given context. If you want people to associate calmness and peace in a given context, you may want to decrease the number of colors associated with anger in your design. However, it is also very important to take individual differences into consideration. Not everyone would react to colors in the same way, but there are some common tendencies to react to colors.
As mentioned earlier, there can be many factors influencing how people internalize the meanings of colors and how they are related to evoke certain emotions. But, there are overwhelming tendencies in people in terms of emotions evoked in certain colors. You can also do an experiment by yourself by thinking about how certain colors make you feel, and there is a high chance that it would be overlapped with the general opinion. Knowing how colors are associated with emotions will give you the power of using it to speak with people’s subconscious to increase UX in the best way possible. Let’s look at what are the most associated feelings and concepts associated with certain colors.
As a primary color, green is often associated with nature, harmony, eco-friendliness, health, and good taste. However, as mentioned before, there can also be bad emotions associated with colors, which happens to be the envy in green’s case. You can observe the use of green in graphic designing and marketing. Notice how brands use green to highlight that the product was made from recycled goods? Or how a vegan mark on products has a green background?
Another important association that is stuck with green is wealth. It is inevitable to see how green is associated with money since there are many countries where the color of the printed money is green. It will also be a great idea to include green if you want to give a sense of richness and stability to your design.
You can see how red is associated with emotions in many settings, including the advertisement, movies, and even in the opinions of toddlers. Red is often associated with anger, love, power, lust, excitement, and speed. Notice how all of those aspects in red are somehow sensory-related. It is also known that the color red has a hunger-evoking nature.
However, there can be culture-specific aspects of colors, and red is a great example of this. The emotions mentioned above are accepted and internalized in Western cultures, but the situation might be different in other cultures. For instance, the color red is accepted to be representing purity in Eastern cultures, whereas it represents happiness and luck in China. For this very reason, it is crucial to consider cultural and individual aspects of colors in graphic design, which will be discussed later in this article.
When it comes to graphic design, it is important to be careful. If you want to provoke any of the emotions related to red in your design, it is very wise to use it. But do not forget that red is a powerful color, and the excessive use of it may create results that you would not want to have on your design.
When people think about a smiley face, it is most probably that they imagine a yellow background. It is no coincidence that yellow is related to happiness and competence. However, yellow is also related to negative functions such as low quality and inexpensiveness – the latter does not always have to be negative, though. Have you ever seen a high-end fashion brand that mainly uses the color yellow? Exactly.
Not all brands aim to be selling luxury products. Some brands are selling cheap products, and by choosing yellow in their brand image or campaigns, they give this subconscious message to you. Additionally, you may realize that the discounts are typically announced with a yellow background. It is another great example of how yellow is related to inexpensiveness.
The culture-specific nature of colors finds us in yellow too. Egypt considers yellow as how western cultures consider black – as a mourning signal. Another conflicting example with yellow in Western cultures and other cultures comes from Japan, as yellow is a predictor of courage there.
When it comes to secondary colors, the associations might be relatively low both in terms of quantity and quality while the degree of detail increases. Violet and purple are often associated with sophistication, power, and authority. The primary colors are more prone to evoke primary emotions, such as anger and joy. Sophistication and authority are not as primary as anger and joy are.
It can be a wise decision to use purple and violet as a tool to represent luxury and wealth as well. At the end of the day, sophistication and authority are somehow related to luxury and wealth in people’s minds. Making those connections as a graphic designer would help you a lot in terms of UX.
You can notice how similar colors evoke similar emotions, as you will see in orange and yellow. Yellow was associated with happiness, and orange is related to warmth and excitement. You can make sense of this association with summertime products. Most sunscreen packages are orange to associate it both with the summertime and warmth. There are many examples of the use of orange in marketing and the digital world to represent excitement as well.
You can use orange when you want to create an image of the friendliness and welcoming nature of the design. If you want to give an energetic vibe, orange would be the best option. Using the lighter shades of orange would be less dramatic than the darker shades since the darker it gets, the more it reminds red to people.
Another color that you can easily guess what it is associated with is black. Imagine a funeral; what would people be wearing? The answer is black. It is a common practice that people do – associating black with grief, fear, and death. But what black represents is not all about bad emotions and events. Black is a great color to represent sophistication and expensiveness. You can think of some of the high-end fashion brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and Estee Lauder to see how they use black for sophistication and expensiveness. It is a great part of creating a brand identity and give people a sense of luxury.
The good thing about black in design is that it can be suitable for every situation. The examples of designs where black is not used at all can be very limited, and even if it’s just the font of writings, the black is present. It is also a great option to create minimalist designs without flashy colors and create a sense of sophistication.
Perhaps the most common association made with blue is masculinity. It can be observed in the latest trend of gender reveals – if the color of whatever method used is blue, it indicates that they are expecting a baby boy. Blue represents many other things, including but not limited to high quality, calmness, safety, corporate, reliability, competence, and sadness.
The shade of blue is a great indicator of the association since many associations can be made with the color blue. If the shade of blue is light, it is more related to factors like calmness, purity, and safety. Dark blue, on the other hand, represents more masculine, reliable, and strength-oriented features.
On the contrary to blue, pink is known to be associated with girliness and femininity. The gender reveals example is valid for the color pink; if a baby girl is expected, everywhere will be covered pink at the end of the gender reveal party. But of course, pink is associated with many other things, too. Pink can be an indicator of sophistication, sincerity, and purity.
It is distressing to consider the sexist nature of pink being associated with femininity and blue being associated with masculinity, but brands mostly use the psychology behind pink and blue. If your design does not intend to change the traditional viewpoints on femininity and masculinity, it would be the most proper thing to use pink when you want to highlight femininity.
Last but not least, white is associated with purity, sincerity, and happiness. You can also see the use of white in our everyday life. Even in movies and TV shows, white color is used in various settings and clothing to highlight purity and happiness. It is no coincidence that wedding dresses are white because it supposes to be your clothing on your happiest day.
In graphic design, white is one of the most commonly used colors both in terms of the harmony it creates with other colors and its availability. What is meant by the availability is that the purity of white enables other colors to pop up and to give the main role that other colors need to have in a given design. Like in black, white is mainly used in minimalist designs.
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As mentioned earlier, there are cultural and individual aspects of color psychology that can be a significant issue in your design. You will not want to use the wrong color if that color represents something completely different for the context you are designing for. There are some methods that you can use to consider individual differences and cultural aspects in color psychology.
The first thing you should do as a graphic designer to avoid such circumstances would be to know your audience. For whom are you doing this design? Are they teenagers or old people? What are the characteristics of their generation? By acknowledging those simple aspects, you can diminish most of the individual differences that might arise. It is impossible to create a design that would be optimal for everybody, but it is always the best to minimize the risks.
The only option to minimize the risk of cultural aspects in your design would be researching. Suppose you are doing design for a culture that you are not familiar with. In that case, you can always look up what are the similarities and differences in that culture about color to avoid any misunderstandings.
One of the essential duties of a graphic designer is to increase user experience. Regardless of the concept of what you are designing, it is important to use colors to speak up with the consumers of your design. Understanding the meaning that colors give to people would be your biggest helper through user experience in designs. If the colors you use are balanced and fit to the meaning that your design wants to give people, it means that you are one step closer to your goal.
Colors and harmony of colors are not all about creating an aesthetic look that would please people. It is so much more than that. The colors you choose on your design will help you to give a message that is in line with your design. For this very reason, you need to understand how color theory works and the psychology behind colors to have the best possible results on your designs.
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