Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Color Theory for Website and Logo Design

Color is one of the primary ways to control emotional flow of prospective clients. By mastering the principles of color you can subconsciously guide potential customers into purchasing your products or services. By manipulating color you can send powerful positive or negative messages. Colors are influenced by many factors such as individual differences (gender, age, and personality), culture and prevalent social trends.

General groups
  • Children- Children are the most responsive group to the pleasures of color. Children respond more to warm or intense colors while adults tend to respond more to cool colors
  • Adolescents- Adolescents are sensation-seeking and prefer warm colors such as red while the more reserved ones favor blue or cool tones. 
  •  Elderly- The elderly prefer light colors over dark colors, although, yellow is the color they liked the least.
  • Introverts/ Extroverts - Introverts and extroverts respond differently to sensory stimulation. Extroverts usually prefer warmer colors while introverts prefer the cool ones. Extroverts usually have a higher threshold for sensory stimulation compared to introverts so they are less likely affected by bright lights or sounds. Introverts can be distracted by their senses so bright lights and loud noises can wear them out. Extroverts like their senses to be stimulated while introverts can become overwhelmed. Nevertheless, a portion of people may be attracted towards colors that represent qualities they lack, for balance.
How individual differences affect color preference

 Our preference for color is set at an early age and by puberty we know which ones we love or hate. Every color has a psychological, physiological and neurological effect on the body. Color influences the pituitary gland which helps regulate our hormones, which in turn affects our mood. Colors are both objective and subjective. Researchers have established that more than 80% of visual information is connected to colors. Color can account for up to 85% of the reason people decide to buy products or services.

Physiological effects on the human body 

When light or color hits the hypothalamus it creates a reaction in the pituitary gland. Every color has its own wave length which launches a specific response in the autonomic nervous system. Color is a very powerful tool when it comes to human physiology.  Each color has positive and negative qualities. 

Color is used in light/photo therapy which is used in hospitals and facilities all around the world. Babies born with jaundice are placed under blue light which converts bilirubin so that it can be excreted in the urine and feces. Color-therapy can also be used to treat acne, eczema, and circadian rhythm disorders as well as psychiatric disorders such as seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. 

Warm colors such as yellow, orange and red stimulate the body, raise blood pressure and can strengthen and tone. It has been demonstrated that the color red stimulates the sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system.  

  • Red is the longest visible wavelength that we can see. It is a powerful color that has been proven to increase tension, respiratory movements, central nervous system functioning, eye –blink frequency, arousal and anxiety. It is used in restaurants to increase appetite and by athletes. Studies have shown that athletes exposed to red light had a 13.5% increase in physical strength and 5.8% more electrical activity in their arm muscles.
  • Orange is combination of red and yellow.  Orange has been proven to increase appetite, increase oxygen to the brain and speed up the perception of time. It also gives the sensation of heat but not as aggressively as the color red.
  • Yellow is what is seen when both the green and red cones in your eyes are excited near their peak sensitivity. This is the most excitement that your cones ever have, aside from seeing pure white.  Yellow is the most intense/brightest color on the spectrum. Yellow has been proven to stimulate the brain, make you more alert and decisive. It also makes muscles more energetic and activates the lymph system. When a person is surrounded by yellow they feel optimistic because the brain actually releases more serotonin.
Cool colors such as blue, green, and violet sedate the body, ease inflammation and lower blood pressure.
  • Blue increases a sense of relaxation while lessening feelings of anxiety and hostility and acts as an appetite suppressant. It has also been demonstrated that the color blue stimulates the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system and lowers blood pressure. Blue also stimulates the pituitary gland, which regulates our sleep patterns. It also gives the sensation of being cold.
  • Violet is the shortest wavelength it consists of red and blue in identical proportions. Violet balances the body’s metabolism and suppresses hunger.  It can alleviate conditions such as sunburn due to its purifying and antiseptic effect.
  • Green is in the center of the visible color spectrum. It has both a warming and cooling effect. Green like blue has calming affects and is used in many hospitable settings. Being in the center of the visible light spectrum it is the easiest color on the eyes and has been used to improve vision. It is the color used for night-vision goggles because the human eye is most sensitive to and able to distinguish most of the shades. 

Psychological effects on the human body

The psychological effects of color are universal. 

  • Red is the most emotionally intense color, it is where the eye looks first and is one of the most extreme colors. Depending on the context red can be stimulating and lively or very friendly but it can also be perceived as demanding and aggressive. Red as an accent can focus attention on a particular element. It Increases enthusiasm, confidence, and provides a sense of protection. It also stimulates buying actions but can be overpowering so it must, therefore, be used with caution.
  • Orange is associated with a new dawn in attitude and it’s a color that people either love or hate. It is a combination of red and yellow which makes it a very energizing color. Orange is the color used in the United States for safety hazards so it’s associated with danger, security, and focuses us on physical concerns.
  •  Yellow is the most difficult color for the eye to take in, so it can be very overpowering if overused.  The wrong tones of yellow in combination with other colors can produce feeling of fear and anxiety. It instills optimism and energy, as well as sparking creative thoughts.  It is the happiest of colors yet people or children in yellow rooms are more likely to lose their tempers.
  • Blue is the world's favorite color. It is seen as trustworthy, dependable and committed. Blue is s the least "gender specific" color, as it has equal appeal to both men and women. It represents cleanliness, purity, the unexpected and faithfulness. Sometimes it can be cold and depressing. Top fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty.
  • Violet is associated with wealth, prosperity, rich sophistication and luxury. It is a color rarely found in nature so too much can make things seem cheap or artificial. Violet can be seen as uniting the "wisdom" of blue and the "love" of red. It is the last visible wavelength before ultra-violet ray, so it is associated with time, space and spirituality. In lighter shades, it denotes feminism and romance.
  • Green symbolizes nature. It is a calming and refreshing color that represents balance and offers a sense of self-control and harmony. We are reassured by green on a primitive level it indicates the presence of water, and little danger of famine when surrounded by green.
Color theory in different cultural environments

There are many environmental factors that affect the way we perceive color. It is suggested that people from strongly lit countries preferred warm bright colors over people from countries that preferred less saturated cool colors. There are many cultural differences in how we interoperate color.
  •  Red represents beauty in many languages and cultures as well as good luck and fortune.
  • Orange is the Netherlands' national color, and in China and Japan, orange is used to symbolize happiness and love.
  • Yellow signifies “sadness” in Greece’s culture and “jealousy” in France’s culture and represents “Greed" in Christianity.
  •  Blue is the color of mourning in Mexico and in the Middle East, it is a protective color
  • Violet is worn by widow s mourning her husband's death in Thailand.
  • Green is used worldwide to represent safety and in Scotland people used to wear green as a mark of honor.

Prevalent social trends

People’s preference to color changes depending on socio-cultural trends. This includes behaviors, attitudes, political and social challenges that make up each of histories eras.  Each generation has unique characteristics which effect how we perceive color. In this decade we face computer driven influences and quick-pace lifestyles which are motivated by now present environmental concerns. Palettes inspired by Mother Earth are in. Rich grays and camel tones are being paired with yellows, deep greens or amethyst tones as accent pieces.  The colors of spices and beverages are making an appearance as well.  After 9/11 blue became a favorite color of America, which is associated with peace, something that Americans are looking for in unstable times

How to use color in marketing and logo design

Who are you marketing towards?  What is their age group? Are they male or female?  What culture? Are they high or low income? You must get as familiar as you can with your target audience. Do as much research as you can and implement that into your design and color choices. Market researchers have determined that color affects shopper’s habits. Impulse shoppers responded best to red-orange, black and royal blue colors. Shoppers who planned and stuck to budgets respond best to pink, teal, light blue and navy. Traditionalists responded to pastel - pink, rose, sky blue.
What are the top brands you can think of?

Designs are not made up by a single color but from a series of colors that evoke an underlying theme. It is no coincidence that fast food chains use the colors red and yellow. Early in their career Mcdonalds changed their advertising colors after a university published findings that they were the most agitating colors (you are more likely to notice these colors ). These marketers and advertisers have spent fortunes in an attempt to make their target consumers buy their services or products.  What works in theory doesn’t always work in the real world. Market research is extremely important, the only way to be certain in what works best for your products or services is to test it.

Color Wheel

The color wheel was first created by Sir Isaac Newton in 1704 and it has gone through many changes throughout the centuries. It is an indicative tool that is used to compare existing colors rather than calculate exact colors of mixtures. It shows primary, secondary, tertiary, warm, cool and complimentary colors.  The three main ways the color wheel can be used:

  • Monochromatic - when single colors in varying shades are used. A single hue is used, and extended using its shades, tones and tints.

  • Complementary - when high contrast of color is used by selecting colors directly opposite from one another on the color wheel (such as pink and lime green). This puts a warm color with a cool color and is pleasing to the eye.
  • Triple - it uses three colors equally spaced from each other around a color wheel. 

There are two main ways you can mix color, CMYK and RGB. Their differences produce two completely different results. By adding or subtracting color you can produce different results and intensities of color combinations.

CMYK stands for cyan magenta yellow and black. This is the standard subtractive color model used in color printing. Nearly all color printers use this four-color process. When creating printed material you should always use CMYK mode.  It is a reflective model which means color as we see it.  CYMK is made up of tiny pigments that create a subtractive color space which means the more ink you have on paper the darker the image will be. It produces much darker images then its counterpart RGB.

RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. It is the mixing of points of light to obtain colors on devices such as televisions and computer screens. This is an additive color space, which means the more light that comes off the screen the lighter and brighter the image will become. It is a non-reflective model since the emitted light doesn’t reflect off anything. Since it is all light based you do not mix colors so creating colors does not work in the same way as the CYMK model.

On a final note a rather high percentage of the population is color bind. Eight percent of males (approximately 10.5 million) and less than one percent of females have some sort of color blindness. To be sure that your material can be easily read by someone with color blindness, try converting your image to black and white or grayscale.