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Joseph Kaminski

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December 11, 2017

The Psychology of Color


Have you ever wondered about the colors you see on a day to day basis? Have you ever wondered what exactly about colors interest your mind to the point where you perceive objects with more color as intriguing? Have you ever wondered if your shade of red is the same shade as everyone else’s shade of red, or that perhaps the color spectrum might be flipped for everyone except for you? Have you wondered why those marketing advertisements work wonders on your subconscious?

Color Psychology.

Well, look no further! The answer is rather clear: your mind has shiny object disorder when it comes to the constructs of colors. Whether it be a societal thing or an evolutionary trait, our minds perceive colors as something extraordinary.

Reds and blues and greens and yellows, every color has a distinct feature embedded within our skulls. Colors have an impact on our perception of literally everything. Red seems threatening, blue seems calm. We’re more likely to buy an object if it comes in our favorite color. Marketing and labels affect our likelihood to buy anything we want or need.

The Psychology of Color literally seems to dominate our daily cycle, and we don’t even realize it a majority of the time.

If you’re a gamer, you might know of the percentage rates for online battling. The stereotypical concept of singular or massively multiplayer video games is rather simple – a red side or team versus a blue side or team. The psychology of color works wonders in this sphere of entertainment. In games that require quick movement and rage-induced fighting, the red side usually has a better chance of success. In games that require peaceful gathering and strategic defense, the blue side usually has a better chance of success.

It’s pretty interesting that even in games that are set up on the foundation of skill rather than luck, the simplicity of colors manages to really affect our style of gameplay. The way these two simple colors of opposing forces put our mindsets into a specific version of their respected overdrives absolutely astonishes me!

It doesn’t matter who you even speak too, either. Everyone has a preference for colors if you give them an option between two specific shades. This manages to briefly intersect our abilities to work at our expected rates. Our mindsets shifty, usually, to what we feel the color as.

Well, so what do we actually perceive individual colors as? Well, like everything, there are two sides to every colorful coin.

yellowOne might see yellow as illness, fear, danger. We have traffic lights that introduce our societal tendency to imagine yellow as a sign of caution. However, companies have managed to turn the aspects of yellow into a completely different meaning. Optimism, clarity, warmth, happiness. We see the color psychology warp itself from an otherwise irritating, deadly color into the logos of successful companies such as Nikon, Shell, and the Golden Arches of McDonalds.

orangeOne might see orange as rejuvenating and exotic. Many sports drinks such as Gatorade and companies that create sports equipment like Nike oftentimes use this rejuvenating color to interest sports players and athletes. Also, your typical medical pill bottles oftentimes reside in orange plastic cases – a rejuvenating and supposedly healthy way of dealing with physical pain or mental trauma. However, one might perceive orange as friendly and cheerful or full of confidence. Look at Nickelodeon, the famous children’s television show. Youthfulness is an important aspect to companies like Nickelodeon and companies that rely on the business made off of kids.

One might see red as threatening, dangerous even. Going back to the stoplight example, the red light screams STOP. We stop because we know if we don’t we have a chance to get in a car wreck and possibly die. Nature has a tendency to use bright red in the skin tones of poisonous animals as a natural method of warning the world of what’s not safe to eat. Hot peppers are usually red, giving off the natural color of “threatening”. Blood, fire, you name it. The dangerous aspects of our world happen to revolve around the color red. But, one might see red as passion, a statement of love – representative of the orthodox image of the human heart. One might also see red as pure excitement or strength. Look at companies such as Target, which we’ll talk about in a little bit.

One might see purple as friendly, as it is oftentimes perceived as a feminine color. A relative concept to openness, relatively friendly and compassionate for others. The logo for the feminine Barbie doll plays with the colors pink and purple, which further symbolizes the stereotypical gender roles of society. One might see purple as royalty, social innocence which plays along with the feminine concept aforementioned. However, the psychology of color might claim purple to be creative, imaginative even. Taco Bell, for example, which wants you to “think outside the bun.”

One might see blue as a relaxing method of cooling down. As stated before, in the world of gaming strategic influence plays a heavy roll when it comes to choosing the blue team. Think of it at a business level though, where the concepts of trust and dependability and strength come into play. Walmart, HP, Dell, IBM, Volkswagen – they all use the core color of blue in order to showcase their reliability. However, looking at blue from a social media standpoint, blue is used as a method of keeping you there. Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, WordPress, Skype, LinkedIN, Flickr, Steam, MySpace – almost every major social media platform you can think of happens to come with a cool blue aesthetic.

One might see green as natural, the greatest and closest to organic that money can buy. Think of Animal Planet, Tropicana, British Petroleum (BP), John Deere, Whole Foods. All these companies rely on the aspects of being close to nature. Close to organic substances. Relating to nature itself. However, one might perceive the color green as peace, harmony, growth. Think of BP again, to this extent. Holiday Inn, for example, wants you to have a peaceful time. Starbucks literally perceives their growing company as an achieving work of harmonious coffee. Spotify wants you to use their program in order to listen to your music, a rather peaceful experience. Some might even go as far to claim that green simply means expensive materials: think of Publix.

One might see white, gray or black as a rather bland or dull color to use. For example, we usually hate to see advertisements have a heavy balance of shades within this spectrum. However, we love the use of white space in advertisements. Look at the FedEx logo, which has a white arrow hidden within their original logo. However, one might perceive white in a yin-yang sense of balance and purity.

Cartoon Network, Apple, Wikipedia, they all use white-gray-and-black color schemes to present themselves as a professional alternative in order to get a neutral yet interesting response.

To compare companies. Imagine Nickelodeon (orange) versus Cartoon Network (white). Which do you perceive as the wackiest and the most entertaining when it comes to cartoons and plots?

Imagine walking into Walmart. You are more likely to take your time in Walmart, slowly browsing the aisles and checking out the sales. If you go to Walmart for just milk, there is a high chance that you will leave with nothing but your milk. Walmart’s color scheme, its color psychology, influences how you shop there. It’s calm, cooling blue and happiness-radiating yellow manages to trick you into believing that you are getting the best deals no matter what, and that those deals will always be there.

Now imagine walking into Target. You are more likely to rush in Target, quickly bee-lining around the store in order to take everything in at once. If you go to Target for just milk, there is a high chance that you will leave with everything in the store except your milk. This is because Target’s color scheme influences your decision making. Its red features make you feel excitement, as if you need to buy everything within the store. Its white accents try to balance it out, as too much red might change the meaning from excitement to fear, which is a terrible business strategy if you’re trying to rake in customers. You have to buy it now; it won’t be there next week.

Target VS Walmart

Target vs Walmart.

Now we have to look at the Frankenstein of color combinations. Many companies try to showcase completely different psychological meanings within their logos.

Google, the online search engine that claims to have access to everything on the internet, showcases blue, red, yellow, and green. Perhaps as a method of showcasing the wide variety of information present within their databases. NBC, one of the established media sources, showcases their logo as a peacock with feathers of all colors of the rainbow. Perhaps a way to show that news covers every topic except for Bernie Sanders. eBay, the online sales platform, showcases red, blue, yellow, and green. A running theme here, that online corporations that have just about everything you could ever ask for show off the four main colors noticed most within the color spectrum.

Microsoft showcases the four squares: one red, one green, one blue, and one yellow. Perhaps they’re trying to showcase everything that Microsoft holds near and dear to them. Red to showcase the anger when their customers realize they have no forums. Blue to calm the customers down because they have no forums. Green to distract them from the fact that they don’t have forums. And yellow to showcase optimism that one day they might just have forums! If you can’t tell, I’m made that Microsoft doesn’t have forums! Why are you going to give me an error code that I can’t do anything with?!

Overall, the psychology of color really affects everything we do. From what we buy to where we shop to what car we drive to what companies we trust, colors subconsciously dictate our day-to-day choices in life. So, the next time you’re shopping somewhere, take a look at the colors around you. See what the companies want you to feel. The next time you’re out buying paint for your bedroom or kitchen, imagine the emotions the psychology of the color in choice wants you to feel!

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