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Color Meanings 101

5 Jun, 2018 Marianne Hussey Creativity

Brush up on what colors mean to take your palettes to the next level.

Remember the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz”? When the original movie came out in 1939, one of the most breathtaking cinematic moments was when Dorothy lands in Oz, opens the door and the film transitions from the sepia toned Kansas to the wonderful technicolor world of Oz. Audiences’ eyes popped and jaws fell to the floor as Dorothy sees all the various sparkling flowers and shrubbery, the bright yellow brick road and a perfectly blue river that weaves through the Munchkin Land’s town square. This scene is a perfect example of the incredible power of color.

Colors are much more than a simple reflection of light. Colors have the ability to influence the emotions we feel. Certain colors can make us feel calm while others on the spectrum leave us feeling highly agitated. A carefully selected hue can make someone feel highly motivated and even empowered. In the design world, creatives are asked to harness the power of colors so they can use them as an effective tool to visually communicate and resonate with its intended audience.

Although colors can evoke a range of reactions in people due to different cultures, associations or subjectivity, there are some universal meanings that have been tied to certain colors.

The lyrics from the inspirational musical “Les Miserables” song “Red and Black” are great indicators of what red is associated with. “Red: The Blood of angry men…Red: I feel my soul on fire… Red : it’s the color of desire!” Red is a great color to use when a design is meant to be powerful, dominant or passionate.

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana? Orange is an energetic and vibrant color. Just as leaves change from green to autumn shades, orange is associated with change and movement making it a very dynamic color. The color orange is very eye-catching and makes people feel welcome and comfortable.

With a few exceptions such as “yellow snow”, it is hard to find a case where is not used to promote a positive reaction. Yellow is considered the brightest and most lively color. It can be energizing, cause a viewer to feel cheerfulness and is even associated with a sense of hope.

A few common phrases that are associated with green such as “she’s got a green thumb” or “go green” help allude to what the color green represents. Green is the color the world changes to every spring and resonates that sense of growth and new beginnings. It works well in designs about nature, renewal, stability and wealth.

Blue is the most popular color in the world and used the most as the main color of a brand identity. The varying shades of blue used in designs create several emotional reactions. Lighter blues feel calm and relaxing whereas bright blues are refreshing and energizing. Darker blues are associated with strength and reliability.

Fun fact about the color purple: in ancient times, only royalty and extremely wealthy individuals could afford the dyes to create purple and that has tied the color to feelings of wealth and luxury ever sense. Lighter purples tend to be associated with being creative and imaginative.

Knowing how each of these colors evoke certain emotions and associations allow a designer to choose colors that will make a design even more impactful. Although only the six main warm and cool colors were discussed, the best part of color is the thousands of shades, tones and tints that exist in-between that can be used and explored. In conclusion, using the famous song from “ The Wizard of Oz” as an inspirational guide, here’s to finding the perfect color to use in future designs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

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