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Color Meaning: Symbolism and Color Psychology of Common Colors

By Karen Saunders

Color is a magical element that gives feeling and emotion to art, design, and advertising. By understanding color meaning, (or the psychology of color) you can choose the right color to support and emphasize your design.

A dominant color or overall color scheme can determine the tone of your document. Certain colors will help your product, corporate document, or advertisement attract specific target audiences and evoke desired responses.

The information below provides generally accepted guidelines on the symbolic meanings of color and how you can use color more effectively in your marketing pieces.

Yellow (including coral, orange, amber, and gold) symbolizes: energy, caution, warmth, cheer, and joy. Yellows are often associated with the following characteristics: homey, friendly, soft, welcoming, moving, excitement, or adventure. Good for press kits, stationery, and shopping bags. Use yellow for signage in work situations warning of danger. Yellow is also good for any project that needs to evoke feelings of lightheartedness, humor, or friendliness.

Red (including mauve, magenta, crimson, scarlet, and poster red) symbolizes: power, romance, vitality, earthly, and energy.  Reds evoke highly charged emotions such as aggression, danger, or love. Red makes us pay attention and catches our eye immediately so use reds on items that need to grab attention. However, in the financial arena, red symbolizes a negative direction.

Green (including lime, leaf green, sea green, emerald, teal, and sage) symbolizes: life, foliage, grass, trees, and water. Greens are sensuous and alive. Green is associated with the following characteristics: friendliness, dependability, freshness, non-threatening, safe, secure, healthy, strong, expensive, and primitive. In the business world, green symbolizes growth and prosperity.

Blue and purple (including sky blue, ultramarine, violet, purple, and azure) symbolizes: peace, law and order, logic, analytical, intelligent, honest, calm, clean, good will, tranquility, compassionate, serious, thoughtful, quiet, reflective, regal, classic, dependable, trustworthiness, tradition, and magic. Blues are often used for older, more mature audiences and situations. Blue is common in financial institutions, hospitals, and legal and medical professions. Purples have long been associated with royalty, magic and power. Purples are often used with feminine, rather than masculine designs.

Make sure the colors you use in your marketing materials attract the attention of your target market. Check color resource design guides or swatch books to discover what color combinations work best to make your designs pop.

Read other articles and learn more about Karen Saunders.

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