Every day, you see colors in everything around you, but do you ever stop to consider the influence each of those colors has on you? Each hue has a purpose and evokes feelings, whether it’s the relaxing impact of blue skies and fields of green or the saliva-inducing red and yellow of your neighborhood fast-food joint. Color meanings are a science (and an art) unto themselves. As a business owner or designer, it’s critical to understand these color meanings in order to make intelligent color choices and tap into the mystical power of color symbolism.
1. What red means:
Red is associated with the heat of energy, passion and love. We “see red” when we’re angry and it’s also the color of blood, power and danger, making it a powerful color in branding. Think of the bold red of a fireman’s truck or the ‘stop’ sign in traffic. Red is also said to stimulate appetite, which is why it’s popular in fast food chains—most famously in McDonald’s, which combines red with another primary color, yellow.
2. What orange means:
As a secondary color, orange combines the warmth and heat of red with the playfulness and joy of yellow. It attracts attention without being as daring as red, and is used for warning signs like traffic cones and high-visibility clothing. It’s an energetic color that can bring to mind health and vitality,
given its obvious link to oranges and vitamin C. It’s a youthful color as well, bringing an element of vibrancy and fun. A good example of using orange to connect with a young audience in a fun way is Nickelodeon. To promote energy and activity, Gatorade uses an orange lightning bolt, while orange is also a popular color for tropical drinks like Fanta.
There may be unusual historical reasons behind a brand’s choice of color: luxury brand Hermès chose orange because it was the only paperboard available during World War II! It’s a confident color but not usually associated with luxury.
3. What yellow means:
Yellow is the color of the sun, smiley faces and sunflowers. It’s a happy, youthful color, full of hope and positivity. It’s another color that grabs your attention and for that reason can also be used to signify caution, like red and orange.
4. What green means:
Green is universally associated with nature, linked as it is to grass, plants and trees. It also represents growth and renewal, being the color of spring and rebirth. Another association is “getting the green light” to go ahead, giving it an association with taking action. In the US, green (and especially dark green) is also associated with money and so represents prosperity and stability.