Imagine you are an artist. You are asked to paint the dress of the girl in the illustration above.
You have before you an array of colors:
You are asked to use a color to convey an emotion or feeling. (Write your answers next to the question. The answers follow at the end.) As an artist, which of the above colors would you paint the dress on the stick figure of a little girl to convey:
1. A sense of home, serenity and comfort?
2. A strong self-esteem and youthfulness?
3. A sense of strength and power?
4. A sense of calming and healing?
5. A sense of spirituality and creativity?
6. A sense of depression?
7. A sense of harmony with nature?
8. A sense of sensitivity and “unselfish” love?
9. A sense of fatigue and tiredness?
10. A sense of purity and cleanliness?
For people, color is an important component of sight. Socially, color is extremely important. For example, red, green, and yellow are all used in directing traffic. Stoplights and signs are red; a green light indicates that it is safe to proceed. Yellow symbolizes the need for caution, orange alerts drivers to construction. While all these signs could be executed in black and white (for the written messages would be the same), color is used to help drivers tell the difference between types of messages. Color usage in society is prevalent in advertising, packaging, school buildings, offices and numerous other applications. Even the color of foods can influence people’s willingness to eat them. At one time, Heinz tried making strangely colored ketchup, including purple, but gave up on it because consumers didn’t believe it was ketchup. Would you eat blue ketchup?
Colors are not merely descriptors. Scientific evidence shows that observing colors can affect a person’s mood. The human brain associates colors with where they are seen in nature. Do you feel anxious in a yellow room? Does the color blue make you feel calm and relaxed? Artists and interior designers have long understood how color can dramatically affect moods, feelings and emotions. It is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood, and cause physiological reactions. Certain colors can raise blood pressure, increase metabolism, or cause eyestrain.
There seems to be universal agreement that color associations link mental or emotional reactions with specific colors acting as a stimulus. It is as if the idea that colors elicit emotions is so innate that it does not require an explanation in order to be deemed credible. Interior designers, architects, and paint manufacturers all rely on color associations. Following are some of the most common connections color therapists have between color and specific emotions. I used the connections as answers to the thought experiment above.
1. BROWN. The color brown signifies earth and nature. Brown makes people think of home, providing them with a sense of comfort and confidence. For this reason, it gives people more of a willingness to have a conversation. Men generally like brown more than women.
2. ORANGE. Orange is a very positive color and is known to boost self-esteem. It gives people a feeling of youthfulness. It stimulates digestion and hunger. This can be helpful for restaurants trying to sell more food or for parents trying to get a fussy child to eat their vegetables. Men are more drawn to it than red.
3. RED. As the most outrageous color, red represents power and strength. It is a stimulating color that has been shown to increase activity in the adrenal glands. While having more adrenaline can boost the sex drive and rid the mind of negative thoughts, it can also make an individual more irritable. While it affects both sexes, women tend to respond to it with more intensity. It increases the likelihood of impulsive purchases as well.
4. BLUE. Blue is the color of healing because the sight of it causes the body to produce calming chemicals. The color blue can curb an appetite. There are no foods that are naturally blue except the blueberry, so therefore, if we see the color blue we subconsciously think not to eat. People trying to lose weight may paint their rooms blue to keep them from being as hungry. Blue implies loyalty too, which is why many presidential candidates choose to wear blue ties.
5. PURPLE. Purple is the most mysterious color because it is found so rarely in nature. That is perhaps why an abundance of it is attributed to royalty. Purple is said to alleviate nervousness and fear. It is the color of spirituality and signifies someone’s connection with a higher power. It is also associated with creativity.
6. BLACK. Black is the absence of color meaning there are no stimulating or calming effects. For this reason, black generally makes people feel depressed. Too much exposure to black can prevent growth and change. Black consumes and hides. It evokes the underground and a sense of mourning.
7. GREEN. As the color of balance, green provides people with a feeling of harmony and relaxation. It evokes youth, nature, growth and renewal. Green is the gentlest color on the eyes and observing it can actually help to slow breathing.
8. PINK. Though it is merely a shade of red, pink actually produces the exact opposite emotion. The color pink represents sensitivity and love, and it makes people feel calm and safe. While red can be sexual, pink is associated with “unselfish love.”
9. YELLOW. Yellow sometimes makes people feel more fatigued and tired. It is the brightest color and therefore, when it is reflected, it is the color to irritate the eyes most. When yellow is observed, the eyes feel heavier, which imitates tiredness. It also evokes cowardice.
10. WHITE. White is certainly one of the more tranquil hues. People view white objects as pure and clean.
It’s also important to note that colors often have different symbolic meanings in different cultures. For example, white is the color for weddings in western societies but for funerals in traditional Chinese culture; red is associated with rage in America but with happiness in China. In American fashion and decoration, blue is for boys while pink is for girls, which is a symbolic use of color that is not shared by many cultures.