What’s In A Colour?


Colours play a huge role in the business world and we regularly speak with people who are setting up new businesses, products or services and need to have logos and literature created. During the briefing process we will discuss colours and often what I see is an instinctive colour selection that quite accurately matches the client’s need.

Sometimes that doesn’t happen and on those occasions we have a longer discussion about the impact of different colours on people and the hidden messages that various colours carry. Some of these messages are quite obvious, but others are less so.

This “discussion” about colours has been going on for years and the subject has been most researched in the field of advertising, where many millions of dollars have been spent trying to determine how various colours affect the attitudes of the viewer to a brand and also their purchasing decisions.

Some people scoff at the notion that colour can affect their buying decisions, but to understand this you have to realise that colour permeates every aspect of our lives and even our language:

  • “Seeing Red” – You’re Angry
  • “Feeling Blue” – You’re Sad
  • “Green With Envy” – You’re Jealous
  • “Green Light” – You have the go-ahead
  • “Going Green” – You are making a more environmental choice
  • “Tickled Pink” – You’re very happy
  • “Black Market” – Illegal Sales



From this short list, you see that colours can have multiple meanings and these are driven not just by the psychology of the colour, but by the meaning given to them by society. #

For instance I am sure that “Getting The Green Light” didn’t exist before the invention of traffic lights, but “Black Sheep Of The Family” has probably existed since we domesticated the sheep. So in choosing colours you have to take into account how society sees the colour and this also comes down to the shades of colour.

“Royal Blue” is very different to “Sky Blue”, which is different to “Baby Blue” and each one invokes a different meaning.


So here is a short overview of various colours and the messages they impart:

  • BLUE:

    Trustworthy, Dependable, Committed, Calming, Sedate, Royal (In some shades), Cool. Can also denote Depression.

  • GREEN:

    Tranquil, Refreshing, Peace, Natural, Soothing, Harmony. Can also denote Illness and Sliminess


    Optimism, Enlightenment, Happiness, Stimulating, Creative, Energy, Sunshine


    Fun, Flamboyance, Energy, Earthy (In some shades), Vibrant, Playful

  • RED:

    Energy, Excitement, Attention, Enthusiasm, Action, Speed, Passion. Can also denote Danger


    Regal, Mystic, Creative, Eccentric, Uplifting, Calm, Spiritual, Dignity, Quirky (In some shades)

  • BROWN:

    Wholesome, Earthy, Friendly, Natural, Stability, Order, Luxurious (In richer shades)

  • GREY:

    Timeless, Practical, Vintage. Can also denote Boring or Lack Of Personality

  • BLACK:

    Authoritative, Powerful, Elegance, Sophistication. Can also denote Mystery, Black Magic, Death & Mourning, Illegal

  • WHITE:

    Pure, Virginal, Clarity, Safe, Neutral


So as you can see, using the right colours to match a key message in advertising can significantly improve the delivery of that message.

Equally, the right colours associated with your logo can begin to introduce a specific message about your business before the client ever meets you.

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