Research on color psychology shows that colors have an important impact

Colors are more than just an aesthetic choice. The color of your logo, corporate identity, magazine, website or office is even capable of influencing others. Research into the psychology of color shows that colors have an important impact on people’s emotions, information processing, and behavior.

The amazement about the psychology of color already took place at the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, scientists were already speculating that colors could evoke certain negative or positive feelings. The German poet, philosopher and diplomat Johann Wolfgang von Goethe spoke of plus (yellow, red-yellow, yellow-red) and minus (blue, red-blue, blue-red) colors. Plus colors would generate positive feelings such as liveliness, ambition, and warm feelings. Mink colors would, in fact, induce negative feelings such as restlessness, fear, and cold feelings.

Distinction warm and cold colors

Another distinction in psychology or the meaning of color is that between warm colors and cold colors. According to the American psychologist Jacob Nakshian, it is generally assumed that the warm colors orange, yellow and especially red have an exciting effect on the behavior and cause happiness. On the contrary, blue and green would have a calming effect. Psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein looked at the stimulation and action caused by hot and cold colors, among other things. With clinical observations, he found that the warm colors red and yellow are stimulating and provide powerful action. The cold colors green and blue would be relaxing and produce calm and stable action.

Even more interesting is to look at the meaning of the individual colors. Why do we take a blue, get a white foot and want to forget the black pages in our history?

Yellow: happiness and pleasure

Yellow is the color of the sun, the color of the light and has many positive connotations. In the psychology of color, it stands for happiness and cheerfulness of the mind, but if you are confronted with it too much, it stands for anger. It also symbolizes pleasure, optimism, wealth and friendship. It is also associated with excitement. So use yellow especially when you want to radiate positivity and pleasure.

Red: power, warmth, and danger

One would think that red only evokes negative feelings: a red traffic light, the red that makes the bull aggressive, the color of danger. Yet this does not have to be the case. Red is even associated with happiness. It is an intense color that has a vivid and powerful impact on a person’s personality and emotions. Red is also associated with warmth, fire or passion and with attack and conquest. It also symbolizes negative concepts: arrogance, danger, blood, war, and anger. So red is actually the color of movement. It fits well with interest groups such as the Red Cross and daredevil brands such as Red Bull.

Green: nature, youth, and health

If red also has positive associations, can green also generate negative associations? Actually, green has (almost) only positive meaning in the psychology of color. It symbolizes growth, renewal, nature, youth, health, stability, creative intelligence and stands for a balanced and rejuvenated mind. It is also associated with self-preservation. Especially green is often used as a sales tool. It is often used to make products look sustainable, balanced or healthy. This with the negative extreme that there are many brands that do ‘greenwashing’, profiling themselves greener than the brand actually is. An example of this is the transition of the MacDonalds logo from red and yellow to green.

Blue: calmness, reliability, and sadness

Blue, the color of the ocean, air, water, and coolness. It is a cooler, non-threatening color. It has a soothing impact on the mind and symbolizes calmness, trust, wisdom, authority, generous wealth, truthfulness, creativity, water bodies, conservatism, and reliability. Yet blue is also associated with sadness and even depression. A good example of the use of blue is the logos of the police and the central government. Their blue color fits well with the authority and the reliable image that these organizations have to radiate.

Black and white: rebellion vs. calm

When you think of the color black, you quickly think of dark themes and negative feelings. This is also reflected in our own language: blacklist, black sheep, black day, making someone black, a black page in history. All negative connotations. In the psychology of color, black is associated with negative concepts such as evil and death. Furthermore, black symbolizes the negative concepts of absence, rebellion, mourning, evil, emptiness, darkness and suffering. Yet it also symbolizes some positive concepts such as strength, professionalism, and elegance.

As contrasting as the colors are, so opposite are the meanings. Instead of death and rebellion, white is associated with light and calm. White also symbolizes youth, innocence, respect, truth, snow, air, cleanliness, cold, fear and humility. It also stands for balance and neutrality. So use black more if you want to radiate professionalism and strength and white for a neutral and balanced appearance.

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