The Psychology Behind Design: Significance of Colour

— 2 minutes, 40 seconds read —
psychology of colour design branding

From layout, to colour schemes, to eye-catching logos; the preliminary aim within all aspects of design is to appeal to the customer. A fundamental requirement on behalf of the designer, in order to effectively achieve this target, is to recognise and meet the wants and needs of their client.

Psychology helps us to appreciate the ins and outs of the human brain, and furthermore what we are drawn to in terms of visual aesthetics and why. An understanding of the psychology behind design could have the potential to transform an artistic doodle into a powerful brand image. Putting this into practice means revising several gateways for the use of psychology and the part that it plays in regards to design.

What is the first thing that is noted by an individual when they initially glance at a new product? Colour.

It could be argued that colour preference is a subjective topic, as colours are not always as appealing to one person as they might be to the next. Market research has shown that certain types of people are attracted to certain colours, therefore the colour scheme chosen for a particular design should be dependent on who’s attention the finished product will be aiming to attract.

There are obvious divisions between certain groups and colour preferences; in terms of gender, the colour pink is generally recognised as a ‘girly’ colour. In turn, if a design for a product were being aimed mainly at men, a pink orientated colour scheme would not usually be at the top of the list. However, it has also been discovered that colour preferences change between age groups. Research has shown that younger people between the ages of 0 to 30 prefer the colour green, whereas ages 30+ prefer the colour purple. This gives an insight into what sort of colours should be considered depending on the primary age of your target market.

But what do different colours mean?

The association of colour with certain meaning is something that can potentially be recognised universally. Colour schemes involving reds and pinks, for example, are often used in association with romance and love, whereas darker colours such as black are likely to be seen when representing a more distressing, sinister theme.

The notion of colour indicating a deeper meaning or hidden message has formerly been referred to as ‘colour semiotics’. This term implies that colour can, in a sense, be considered to have grammatical levels. In the same way that signs and phrases have the connotation, referring to the literal meaning of the words, and denotation, which discusses a deeper message, so do colours. From a design perspective, this could mean that a colour scheme may work well initially from a physical viewpoint, however the message depicted by the colours used may not accurately reflect the same message that is attempting to be projected by the design itself.

Consistency is key when it comes to creating an influential design; ensuring the same message is emitted from all design aspects will increase effectiveness and power of the overall finished product.


 About the Author

Hannah Renshaw is a recent graduate of Psychology BSc (Hons) at York St. John University.


Further Reading

Check out First Site Guide’s really useful Psychology of Colour Infographic for a great guide on getting started and making the most of colour on your website.


Hannah Renshaw