Applying color principles fosters desired audience response. Warm colors tend to “move toward you” while cool colors tend to “move away from you.” So a designer can use warm colors for emphasis and cool colors to minimize emphasis. Brighter colors attract our eyes first, and if overused, can cause visual confusion. Overusing a bright color as an accent reduces its effectiveness.
Emotional responses influence color considerations, and differences in color value and intensity can evoke very different emotional reactions. Light red is associated with cheerfulness, but bright or dark red can induce irritability. Light yellow-green is associated with freshness and youth, but the darker shade olive is associated with drabness and decay. Light sky blue is associated with tranquility, but the deeper value indigo is associated with depression.
Basically, in North American mainstream culture, the following meanings are signaled by color:
- Red: urgency, passion, heat, love, blood, excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger
- Yellow: warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness, cowardice, brightness
- Blue: truth, dignity, power, coolness, melancholy, heaviness, trust, reliability, belonging, coolness
- Orange: playfulness, warmth, vibrant
- Green: nature, health, cheerfulness, environment, money, vegetation, nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
- Purple: wealth, royalty, sophistication, intelligence, royal, spirituality, dignity
- Pink: soft, sweet, nurture, security
- Black: sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery, death, rebellion, strength, evil
- White: purity, cleanliness, lightness, emptiness, pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild
- Gold: prestige, expensive
- Silver: prestige, cold, scientific
Notice how a particular color may have both a positive and negative connotation? This emphasizes the importance of careful color selection and coordination.
Different cultures interpret colors differently, and a savvy Web designer can avoid disappointing results and costly re-works by some upfront cultural research. “White is the color of death in Chinese culture, but purple represents death in Brazil. Yellow is sacred to the Chinese, but signified sadness in Greece and jealousy in France. In North America, green is typically associated with jealousy. People from tropical countries respond most favorably to warm colors, people from northern climate prefer the cooler colors” according to Keysteps. [www.keysteps.com/Tips&Articles/feature3.htm]
Imagine the negative first impressions made by selecting a culturally offensive site color scheme. That’s only one example of why it’s time well-spent considering how color choices support a site’s message, its target audience preferences and demographics.