Try as you may, you can’t get away from color. Color is used for effect and aesthetics everywhere from restaurants to ads to clothing. It’s long been shown to influence the moods of its viewers, whether they realize it or not.
The mood-altering effects of color are temporary–the body has an initial reaction, but returns to normal after the mind regains its equilibrium. But in the advertising world, people don’t stick around long enough to regain their equilibrium, so those initial reactions are extremely important to consider.
Simply knowing the audience your advertising is trying to reach will have a great impact on the colors you choose. We’re probably familiar with the emotional attachments our own culture puts on certain colors, but other cultures may have completely different perceptions of colors. In the Western world, for instance, black is the color of death and mourning. You wear black to funerals. If a movie needs to show someone fading away, the screen fades to black. But in Eastern cultures, white is actually the color of death and mourning. Imagine a movie fading to white as someone dies or slips into unconsciousness. That’s how Western movies look to Easterners.
Since colors often carry emotional attachments, certain color combinations can convey a personality of sorts. Color choices are probably the quickest way for a company to communicate (or miscommunicate) its personality to the masses. Dark grey and orange may work well for a trendy magazine, but would turn away users looking for legal counsel. Black, white and red may work well for a news site, but might bore customers looking for entertainment.
In addition to cultural emotional attachments, there are sometimes basic physiological responses to colors. Color psychology is an emerging branch of psychology that is using those basic human responses to treat patients with a form of alternative medicine called color immersion. (There are many experts in the field who would disagree with this treatment, but the point is that color can have an impact deeper than our cultural attachments.)
Yellow, for instance, is generally considered to be a bright, cheery color–but psychological tests have shown the opposite to be true. Babies are more likely to cry and people are more likely to lose their tempers in yellow rooms. The problem is that yellow is too bright–it’s the hardest color for the eye to take in because of the high amount of light that is reflected by it. Reading text on a yellow background can cause eye strain, and, over time, loss of vision.
On the other end of the spectrum, green is the easiest color for the eye to take in. That’s why being out in nature often relaxes people, and it’s probably why green is the most popular decorating color. Reading text over a green background can actually improve knowledge retention and even eyesight, over time.
Right after green is blue. Exposure to blue can actually stimulate the brain to release calming chemicals which put the mind at ease and allow people to focus on the tasks at hand. Studies have shown that people are more productive in offices that are painted blue, and weightlifters can handle heavier loads in blue gyms.
Color can be a powerful tool in capable hands or an imminent disaster in the wrong hands. It’s important to delegate that power to knowledgeable professionals. Entrust your corporate personality to capable hands or you might end up turning people away before they read a word of what you have to say.