Choosing the right colors to represent your company, your brand, your image, can be a daunting task. Color draws out emotions in everyone and are often associated with specific feelings and ideas. Red, yellow, and orange are warm colors. They are used to reflect passion, happiness, enthusiasm, and energy. Green, blue, and purple are considered cool colors, often associated with water, evening, and nature. They give us a feeling of calm, soothing, and relaxed.
Red is a hot color and can represent both anger and love, often evoking strong emotions. It can indicate danger (think warning labels), but is also associated with importance. Outside the western world, it often represents luck, prosperity, and happiness. In graphic design, red can be a powerful accent color, but can be overwhelming if used too much. If you want to portray power or passion within your graphic design, red is a great color to use.
Orange is very vibrant and energetic. When muted, it can represent the earth and autumn. When vibrant, and associated with the fruit of the same name, it can represent health and vitality. Since Orange commands attention, graphic designers need to be careful to not overdo it when using this color so you keep the friendly and inviting vibe it lends to the design.
Yellow is the most vibrant and energizing of the warm colors. It represents sunshine and hope, which gives us happiness and warmth. On the flip side, it can be associated with deceit and cowardice. Outside the Western world, yellow carries a much different meaning. In India it identifies merchants and in Egypt it is used for mourning. Knowing your audience is imperative when designing with color.
Green is most associated with nature and represents new life, growth, and rebirth. Depending on the shade chosen, it can have a calming effect, but can also incorporate some of the energy of yellow. It can be used to reflect wealth, renewal, and nature, but can also be associated with envy or jealousy.
Blue is most often associated with sadness and depression, but can also represent calm and peace. Different shades of blue invoke vastly different responses: lighter shades are for calmness and serenity, bright shades are energetic, and dark offers strength and stability (often seen in the corporate world). The shade of blue used in graphic design is very important, so be sure to select carefully.
Purple is mostly associated with nobility and royalty, stemming from when Tyrian purple was only available to the elite. With this history, using dark purples in design represents wealth and luxury. Lighter shades are softer and lend to romantic design. As with most color, purple means different things to different countries: in Thailand it is the color of mourning for widows.
Most design incorporates a combination of neutrals and colors, but can also be used by themselves to create more sophisticated designs. Neutral shades incorporate black, brown, gray, and white. The accent color they are associated with often determine the meaning behind the neutral.
Black can be associated with both power and death, elegance and evil. It is a very flexible neutral because it can be used in both elegant designs and edgier designs, giving vastly different impressions.
White is the color of purity and cleanliness. In the western world, it’s most famous association is its use in weddings with brides wearing white dresses. It is an easy neutral backdrop in many designs, usually when aiming for simplicity.
Gray is generally conservative and formal and can be used in lieu of either black or white. You’ll see a lot of gray in corporate design, but can also be seen in more modern designs. Gray is often used in lieu of black when you don’t want such a sharp neutral as you get with black.
Brown is a very earthy neutral and is often associated with nature and natural design. It brings warmth to designs that you can’t quite get with the other neutral colors, but be careful you don’t use so much the design is considered dull.