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Colour Theory and Psychology

colour palette rawmarrow.

About Colour.

I’ve been posting daily random colour palettes on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and occasionally on Twitter.

One of the questions asked was what are these palettes used for? The ones posted on social media aren’t really used for anything as such -it is really to get people thinking about colour and colour combinations. Sure, sure it’s also a way of sharing funny album covers, old adverts as well- I can admit it, but I will try to change it up.

When people come to us for branding they often say “my favourite colour is x” which is fine but that colour might not be suitable for their brand or industry. Speaking of favourite colours, Philip Cohen, a sociologist from the University of Maryland, asked 2,000 men and women the simple question: “What is your favorite colour?”.

The pure colour most often given in response was “blue,” for both genders. Does that mean you should be using blue in your branding? Maybe or maybe not, it comes down to more than just being a favourite colour.

Color Research & Application suggests that it is important particularly for new brands to specifically target logo colors that ensure differentiation from established brands.(if the competition in your industry uses red, you’ll stand out using a completely different colour). There is a whole psychology of colour- which will get to but first some colour theory.

“In the visual arts, color theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. There are also definitions of colors based on the color wheel: primary color, secondary color, and tertiary color.” Wikipedia

If you’ve ever done an art, graphic design course you would have come across the colour wheel. You might not know that Sir Issac Newton experiments in the 1660s led to the theory that red, yellow and blue were the primary colours from which all other colors are derived. This was the beginning of the colour wheel. This video from gcfglobal explains the colour wheel and theory really well.

Colour theory is used artists, graphic designers, website designers, photographers, interior designers and marketers in different ways specific to their context. Designing for print is very different to designing digitally for websites, games and so on. Other considerations such as designing for the visually impaired also play a part in website design.

Psychology of Colour.

“People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone. So, prudent use of colors can contribute not only to differentiating products from competitors, but also to influencing moods and feelings – positively or negatively – and therefore, to attitude towards certain products. Given that our moods and feelings are unstable and that colors play roles in forming attitude, it is important that managers understand the importance of colors in marketing.” -Satyendra Singh (2006 paper titled Impact of color on marketing).

There are numerous infographics about the psychology of different colours in branding I’ve saved lots of these on my Colour board on Pinterest. The thing is yes there are some generalisations about the psychology of colour but this varies amongst individuals so these are very generalised guides. The perception of colour also varies across cultures so while western cultures may think of white as associated with purity, peace or elegance many Asian cultures such as Korea and China associate white with mourning and death.

There was a famous study conducted Hubspot which revealed that in their case study at least the colour of the button made a difference to how many people clicked through.


Which do you think got the most click throughs? (click link to find out).

Colour in branding

So colour theory is something we at rawmarrow use when developing your logo, website, printed material for example. However, it is only one tool-the other things we do are:

  1. Research your competition
  2. Research trends in the industry (generally we want to avoid them)
  3. Send you an indepth questionnaire about your business including how you want your business to be perceived. (eg. dependable or fun loving etc).
  4. Look at your likes and dislikes (it’s your brand and it represents you)
  5. Consideration of typography to reflect your brand (whole other subject).

The one thing many clients want when we am designing a logo for example is they want to see it in colour straight away. The first iteration of your logo from us will be in black and white-this may disturb clients who have tried to use online “logo creators” with a zillion colours (ok not a zillion, but you get the idea). It’s our standard  practice to start designing in black and white. This is also true for most designers I know- and although many people rush to get to the colour version there are reasons why starting in black and white is best. Starting in black and white keeps it simple, and focuses the client on the actual form of the logo rather than getting distracted details.  Also there are instances where clients will need a black and white version of their logo. If the logo works for them in black and white we can introduce the colour palette we developed for them. 🙂

Contact us if you need branding help!

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  1. Pingback: Creating Memorable Logos That Resonate and Stick - rawmarrowblog

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