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Colour Theory and Web Design: What do Different Colours Mean?

At some point in our lives, most of us have identified a “favourite colour”. This tends to be the colour that we most closely identify with and appreciate. 

The “favourite colour” experience often changes over time, and many of us appreciate a range of different colours, but the question remains: why are we drawn to different colours, and exactly what do different colours mean?

Written By
Dan Partridge
Web Design

Scientists have been interested in the meaning of colour for a long time. Colour theory (we’ll stick to the English spelling in the name of posterity) has featured in literature, music and the arts, and we all encounter different uses on a daily basis.

However, the thing that particularly interests us as web designers is the impact that colour has on website design. If each colour has a different ‘meaning’ and evokes a different response in the eye of the beholder then this has the potential to be very useful indeed for a company who are looking for the best way to brand their product/s and services.

In a nutshell, it’s important to consider questions of what do different colours mean and evaluate the best way to use colour in your branding, literature and website design. It’s no secret, for example, that blue is a colour of choice for corporate and financial institutions because it evokes feelings of trust. Applying this kind of wisdom to your branding process will help you to make the most of colour theory and connect with more people online.

Here is a quick overview of the most common reactions to six colours, including examples of businesses that are using these colours to shape their identity.

Red

This is a colour that evokes feelings of heat, fire, passion, anger and romance. It’s lucky in China, but not in South Africa. It’s one of the most bold, striking and dramatic colours and is used to great effect by a number of household name companies.

The Household Names: Coca Cola, Red Bull, YouTube, McDonald’s

Blue

Blue is a calmer colour that suggests strength, peace and authenticity. It’s used by a lot of banks because it creates the kind of reaction that they want in customers, and cuts against the negative perceptions that can surround wealthy companies. It’s also popular with tech companies because it conveys expertise, wisdom and authority in a very understated way.

The Household Names: Facebook, Vimeo, Halifax, American Express

Yellow

Yellow isn’t used as commonly in branding and web design but is a very positive, warm colour. It reminds us of sunshine, summer and happy moments. Yellow brings a warmth to a website, helping to draw the reader’s attention to particular features.

The Household Names: Nikon, Hertz, Ferrari

Green

Green tends to be associated with nature, which is very handy for eco-brands – and, for that matter, companies who want to show their environmental sympathies. It symbolises hope, wealth, health and safety. In many countries it’s also synonymous with ‘green for go’, implying momentum and progress.

The Household Names: BP, Spotify, Holiday Inn, SwankyApple

Orange

Orange has many of the same qualities as red, but is generally considered to be more friendly and personable. Much like the juice, orange is often synonymous with health and vitality.

The Household Names: Firefox, Fanta, Orange, Mastercard

Purple

Throughout history purple has been considered a rich, luxurious colour, often used to convey power and wealth. Whilst pink can be considered overtly feminine, purple tends to have a broader appeal. Considered artificial by some, the few occurrences of purple in nature tend to be positive.

The Household Names: Yahoo, Cadbury, Zoopla

Multicolour

Some brands, of course, just want it all. Throwing the handbook out the window are Google, NBC and eBay, amongst others.

Want to tap into our branding and website design expertise? Why not contact us today for a free consultation to see what we can do for you…

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