What is Applied Color Psychology?
Applied color psychology is a system based on art, science, and psychology that removes the subjective nature usually given to making design choices. This tool gives creatives, business owners, and entrepreneurs confidence knowing that they are sending the intended messages with their design choices.
Color Influences Many Areas of Our Lives
Positive & Negative Effects of Color
Each of the eleven main colors has positive and negative aspects that we instinctively recognize. These aspects transcend demographics - they are innate.
For example, studies have shown that the color red increases our heart rate and blood pressure. This is a physical property of red that transcends cultural boundaries.
That is not to say that we don't have learned associations with certain colors that we pick up through culture. The difference is that the cultural associations can be unlearned or changed, and the innate responses we have to color cannot.
Each color has the ability to trigger either a positive or a negative response in humans, dependent upon the other colors around it. Color harmony can be compared to musical harmony. If there is just one wrong note out of key, it can throw off the entire piece of music, and it is the same with color. One wrong color in a piece causes disharmony, triggering the negative response of that color.
Evolutionarily this worked to keep us safe. You know the difference between green rotten food and soft green moss to sit on. What surrounds each work to communicate which to avoid and which to gather.
The 4 Harmonious Color Groups
The four harmonious color groups were discovered by world-renowned British color psychologist Angela Wright, who runs the color consultancy Colour Affects in London. Within these groupings, each color has properties that are similar to those properties of others in the same group, and dissimilar to all those outside the group. The properties they share are based on their lightness, saturation, and value.
The four groups Angela identified are Group 1: Spring/Morninglight, Group 2: Summer/Dreamlight, Group 3: Autumn/Firelight, and Group 4: Winter/Starlight.
Spring colors are clear, delicate, and warm and contain white.
Applying Color Psychology to Design
Design professionals and entrepreneurs can use applied color psychology as a short-cut to choosing color palettes, typography, photographic styles, fabrics, and anything else that contributes to an overall style. You simply decide on the personality of what you are working on, and it points to one of the four groups.
If you combine colors and design elements that are harmonious, they will communicate the positive aspects you want to communicate.
If there is just one color or design element out of harmony, it will throw off the whole piece. If it is a color out of harmony, it communicates the negative aspects of all the colors used in the design.
[Click here to download the Color Associations Cheat Sheet to see the positive and negative meanings of each color.]
If you want your piece to cause disharmony, you could use this to your advantage and make sure to include colors from at least two of the harmonious groups. However, if you want people to respond positively to your design, then it is important to choose one harmonious color group and choose all your colors from that.