For color’s sake : Part 2.

Ever felt hungry all of a sudden looking at a burger king? Or felt the urge to rip open a pack of beautiful M&Ms right off the store shelf and start eating them? Im sure many of us have had similar experiences quite a few times! Wondered why that happens?

Its all about that color!

These logos and covers were intentionally designed with particular color combinations to attract our attention and evoke certain feelings. These feelings have no effect unless they are associated with a previous experience, be it good or bad. Take a person to burger king for the first time; he has no expectation or memory associated with that place. Provided he has a good experience there the first time, he too will start craving for a burger from that place when he sees the logo somewhere later. This is because the colors on the logo are now associated with a desirable experience. He is more likely to choose things having a similar color combination. On the contrary, if he had an unpleasant experience, there is a high probability that the negative memory associated with that color combination will adversely affect his decision to buy something with a similar combination. This is the power of color! This is also a major reason companies place huge emphasis on their visual branding. Even if their product/service is excellent, they still need to attract customers first; and what better way to do this than tricking our brain!? Why is the Burger King logo attractive to our eye? We shall find out in the this post.

So, how do we choose the right color or color combination for whatever we are about to create? Let me share what I’ve learnt about choosing the right colors. I won’t bore you with lots of theory. I’ll try explaining with some examples I used to understand this concept.

First, we’ll learn to choose a good combination of color. Second, we’ll learn to choose a color appropriate to our creation’s context.

I. Choose the right combination.

Meet our indispensable ally, the color wheel!


How the wheel is created isn’t something we need to know at this point. What we do need to know, is how to use it! There are certain color combinations, tried and tested through the ages, which have a positive effect on our minds. They are pleasing and attractive to the eye. These are combinations of colors from specific positions on the color wheel. These combinations are called color harmonies, well, because they result in harmonious combinations. Almost always, a harmonious combination will enhance the look of the underlying product.

Let’s see what these harmonies are.


These are any two colors opposite each other on the wheel. Example: blue and orange; yellow and purple etc. This is a simple, frequently used and a very effective harmo

complementary1                                                       Complimentary2

The above interior decoration is appealing because it has a harmonious color combination.      complementary1.1The same decoration doesn’t have the initial appeal if we replace orange with yellow. Though it is acceptable, it isn’t as good as with orange. This is because yellow is not located opposite blue, but also not located very far away from orange.

Split complimentary

As shown on the wheel. Example: Purple, yellow and orange.

CWsplitcomplimentary                                                   Split-complimentary1

Makes wonderful choices for bouquets, lighting, multicolored room decor etc. Just remember to choose colors from the right positions.


Colors equidistant from each other on the wheel. Example: red, yellow and blue.


Remember I told you that Burger King’s logo catches our attention? It is because it has a harmonious color combination. Surprise, surprise!


These are a group of colors adjacent to tech other on the wheel. Example: Blue, purple and pink.


Dance floors are always lit with crazy patterns and vibrant colors, and those that are remembered the best are those which adhere to any of the color harmonies. If you do remember the color of the lights the next morning, then you can be sure it had a harmonious combo of colors haha!


monochromatic1                                                                   grey-and-black-speaker

It has a combination of hues, shades and tints of the same color. It is commonly used in products, tile selection, web design etc.

II. Choosing the right color.

Now that we understood how to choose a color combination, we can learn how to choose the appropriate color for our creation’s context. For humans, each color is psychologically associated with a feeling. So, understanding the feelings evoked by each color is of paramount importance. We’ll see a few examples to help us with that.

red  Passion, confidence, action, boldness

red website small

This website screams boldness and action. The color selection, aided by the contrast and placement of content is pleasing to look at. If you wish to make a point, use this bold color. Nothing is as powerful as red against a dark background. Caution: red against a light background is not as bold. So, be conscious about combining red with other colors.

Redbull red power

Here’s another example. Everyone knows redbull is synonymous with bold and daring activities; this color emphasizes that fact.


Energy, endurance

orange shoe1                                                    orange shoe

A lot of brands are leveraging this energetic color to help boost the sales of sport goods. A proof of this is a number of sport shoes being released with bright colors like orange. Your brain is asking you to get one right now and start running, isn’t it?

yellowHappiness, wisdom

                                                                            yellow ositive cheerful

Need I say more? Minions are some of the happiest creatures I’ve ever seen! And them being yellow only increases their cheerfulness. Any other color wouldn’t have done justice.

yellow-ositive-cheerful3               yellow-ositive-cheerful2                yellow-ositive-cheerful1

They definitely cannot be associated with wisdom though! Stupidity and ignorance, maybe.


Harmony, nature, well being

green calming

If you want your product, website or app to feel fresh and rejuvenating, I suggest you go green! Literally! Green, when combined with colors like white, yellow and even brown can enhance the appearance of your product. The only way to be sure? Test it out!


Calmness, confidence, peace


Think of a day at the beach, just lying on the sand. The calmness you felt is what this color conveys. Shades and tints of blue are used by many companies like facebook, twitter, dell etc. It is a favorite color for an enormous number of people. Using this color is sometimes a safe bet because of the above fact.


Luxury, royalty, magic

purple sofa

A color which is very effective when used sparingly, either as monochromatic of as part of a color harmony. Too much purple against a dark background is not recommended, as both colors are dark. I think it ends up looking more gloomy than royal. Purple and its variations are very popular in women’s clothing and accessories.


Security, sorrow (bleak)

grey watch

In today’s world, I think grey could also mean industrial, strong and well made. This color is very popular in the electronics and watch industries. A huge proportion of laptops and watches have shades or tints of grey. It also gives the products a look of sophistication. Look at the macbook line, Dell’s new XPS laptop. At the same time, secure locations like vaults and safes are also grey. This color would be my first choice to test, if I were designing something related to safety, like a security app, a bicycle lock, a personal protection device etc.


Power, sophistication, class, stability, death

xbox one

With the feelings associated with this color, it is no surprise that a huge percentage of cars are black, especially those used by people in power, be it the President, a Senator, a CEO etc. This is a very common color in consumer products and electronics too. Black is a color which can be used easily with most other colors with good results. Ultimately, the message delivered also depends upon the color combined with it.

Example: usually, a product having a color combination of yellow and either black or dark grey is presumed to be rugged and sturdy. This is evident in the power tools segment.

yellow and black0                                    yellow and black1

There are plenty of websites and apps which use black or tints of black as secondary colors to create contrasts, emphasize certain elements etc. This wordpress blog’s template also uses black. I hope it looks classy, haha!

Sometimes, though a color is globally associated with a particular feeling, it might not suit the product on which it is applied. Look at the following gadgets. The gold color suits the forms of the iPhone and the HTC One, but doesn’t look as good on the Samsung.

gold iphone                gold-htc                 gold-S5

Similarly, a dark purple color suits the Xperia’s form, but doesn’t look appealing on an iPhone.

purple-xperia                                     purple iphone

This article might not cover all the feelings associated with every color, but it covers the most common ones. Also, different cultures might have different associations, as it depends on past experiences. Example: in India, from the past, white has been worn by family members to symbolize mourning, whereas in the United States, black is used for the same. Color selection is a skill that can be mastered only by careful observation of objects surrounding us and through practice.

The goal of this article is to help you understand the art of choosing the right color for the right context, so that you won’t end up doing something like this:

bad color combination2

This is neither an adjacent, nor a complimentary and definitely not a monochromatic harmony. It is just wrong and hurts my eye!

I hope you will use this new knowledge to help make whatever awesome stuff you’re creating more awesome!


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 12 other followers


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s