October 2, 2013

How color can influence your audience

Color Blocks

Color Blocks

So, I’m driving along an unfamiliar country road enjoying the scenery when I approach a crossroads with a red octagonal sign but no words. What’s a guy to do? Instinct tells me to take my foot off the gas and come to a stop. This may seem like a no-brainer but there’s a reason for my actions. Is it the sign’s octagonal shape? Maybe. But more than likely it’s the sign’s color. Since prehistoric times, red has been associated with blood and fire. So, naturally, this guy decided to stop.

In marketing

Colors affect each of us in so many ways. Colors can even reveal your personality or mood, and yet most of us are unaware of their influence in our lives — or of the subtle ways we use them. In marketing, for example, it’s valuable to know how colors resonate with your target audience. As a marketing communications designer, I’m constantly involved with color and color decisions: How do we make this poster “edgy”? Can this brochure be more “corporate?” What will make you look at this billboard and grasp its message — all in 2.3 seconds? Just as the red of the unmarked sign alerts us to the possibility of imminent danger, there are other colors that can influence in other ways, even physiologically.

In design

In logo design, I generally try to use color to structure the visual order of the mark. Dominant elements require bold attention-grabbing colors; secondary elements less so. The trick is to combine these contrasting groups into a visually pleasing design. There are tried-and-true color combinations that are used in logo design because of their associations to certain characteristics.

In painting

Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands

As a fine artist, I use colors to create form, space and visual hierarchy in my paintings (see above) to let the viewer experience a particular moment in time. Well, at least that’s what I strive towards. In painting, color temperature is used to establish visual importance. I generally, but not exclusively, use warm colors in the foreground and cooler colors in the background. Colors that contrast tend to attract the eyes, usually near the painting’s focal point or center of interest. Muted colors tend to blend together and then recede in space and establishes its background.

With all the colors there are, multiplied by infinite color combinations, it’s no wonder that color is ever-present but not nearly close to being understood. I guess that’s why I find color so amazing. So the next time you see a painting or display of color — whether it’s a road sign, a billboard or a particularly arresting outfit on a passerby — take a moment to think about the response that color evoked in you. You might be surprised what it tells you about yourself.

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