Using Color To Evoke Emotion

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Published: 16th July 2012
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The color spectrum was discovered in 1666 when Sir Isaac Newton passed pure white light through a prism, realizing it separates into all visible colors.  Most of today’s artists and designers know that yellow and blue make green and what constitutes a warm color or a cool color, but I’ve found that very few of them know or respect the psychology of green or how warm colors make the viewer feel. 

This article will be a general overview of the how the primary colors of the spectrum evoke emotion.  In later articles, I will get more in depth and commit an entire article to each primary color.

No matter if you are an interior designer or a website designer, choosing the correct color scheme can really make or break your design.  When first meeting a client to discuss their project, I do not necessarily ask them what color scheme they are looking for.  I will ask them what they want people to feel.  I find it better to say, ‘can you give me three words to describe what you want this to look like.”  If they respond with words like, “sleek, technical, powerful” then I will be sure to have a color scheme of dark grays and black, and use bright, vibrant colors for accents.  If I am meeting with a medical facility, and they give me words like, “healthy, clean, professional”, then a white with green and yellow color scheme would be more appropriate. 

Below, we breakdown what each primary color makes you feel.

  • Red:   - Associated with Love, Heat, evokes Anger, Intensity, Excitement.  Often used in movies to signify a dangerous situation, character or prop. Chromotherapists use red to increase circulation and stimulate the body and mind.

  • Orange: - is considered an Energetic, Warm color, evokes Enthusiasm and Excitement.  Orange is used to draw attention, as in traffic signs. 

  • Yellow: - Cheery, Warm, Nature; but evokes Frustration and Anger.  Chromotherapists believe that yellow increases metabolism.  Highly visible, attention grabber. 

  • Green: - Nature, Health, Healing, Good Luck, Tranquility, Jealousy; has been known to increase the ability to read, used in decorating to relieve stress and calm, color of fertility

  • Blue:  Calm, Relaxed, Soothing; evokes Serenity, Sadness – Men Preferred, Research proven blue rooms make people more productive; least appetizing. Chromotherapists use blue to ease the suffering of illness and pain, also lower the pulse and body temperature.

  • Violet/Purple: - Symbol of Wealth and Royalty, Spirituality and Wisdom.  Sometimes evokes: exotic, mysterious, not natural

  • White: - Innocence, Spacious, Purity, Sterile, Focus, isolation

If you are someone who works with colors, try to take these ideas into consideration during your next job.  I’ve found that implementing these strategies not only guarantees pleasing your clients because it makes them look good, but it also forces diversity in a portfolio that may tend to favor certain color schemes.

Matthew Necroto is a graphic designer currently living in the Tampa, Florida area. He has more than 20 years of experience working as a graphic designer, web designer, creative director, internet promotions manager, and production manager.

"I’ve designed, built or managed well over 100 websites. I have designed, printed and installed just about every print media there is. I’ve managed the marketing for 15 companies over this past year. In the past 16 months, I have proven results of increasing website traffic by 30% per month and plummeting Alexa rankings. And I do it all with white-hat link building strategies.

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