Colour is more than just a visual experience; colour influences our moods and our behaviours. This is known as colour psychology.
There’s a lot of confusion out there as to what colour psychology is as it is often confused with colour association and colour symbolism. So I thought I would explain the differences to clear up any confusion.
What is Colour Association?
Colour association is the conscious associations we have to a particular colour, even down to a particular shade. This could be in relation to an event in which you have associated with a memory. For example, you may dislike a certain tone of green because it reminds you of your school uniform and you didn’t enjoy school. It could be you love the colour yellow because it reminds you of your VW beetle when you would go on fun holidays with your family as a child.
What is Colour Symbolism (Colour in Culture)?
Colours are understood differently in different cultures because of the meaning those colours have within that culture. Sometimes these have gained symbolic significance over many generations, if not hundreds of years. Often the original reason may no longer be known, slipping into folklore.
Giving meaning or association to a colour is our human way of seeking meaning within our environment, usually formed out of religious beliefs or from nature.
An example of colour symbolism is the colours representing good luck. In China, red relates to fire and energy and has come to symbolise good fortune and good luck.
What is Colour Psychology?
Whilst colour association and colour symbolism are conditioned conscious associations to colour, the psychology of any particular colour is largely unconscious. And whilst the psychological meaning of any given colour universally holds true, cultural associations may significantly influence colour choices.
Colour is more than just a visual experience; it influences our mood and behaviour. Established research into theories relating to colour and psychology suggest each colour has specific effects that influence us on all levels; mental, emotional and physical.
When we see colours they send unconscious messages in a language that we understand instinctively, the language of emotions. Colour psychology helps us to understand the benefits of using colour consciously.
Karen Haller Colour & Design Applied Colour Psychology Specialist
1st June 2012