color psychology

Color Psychology (PDF): Essential Guide for RDNs

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Whether you are opening a private practice, embarking on your first entrepreneurial adventure, or just starting a blog, the question you are probably wrestling with is ‘where do I even start?’ You are about to pour all your passion and knowledge into this new thing, and you want to do it well. It often seems that there are just too many steps to take and too many details to attend to. And there is no clear path or manual, right?  One way to begin is by starting out small, with little steps that make a huge difference. Keep reading to find out how color psychology (PDF) can help you take those first steps in creating your brand and make it stand out from the crowd.

What is color psychology (PDF)? Brain represented as strings of multiple colors.

What is Color Psychology (PDF)?

So, by now you are probably wondering, ‘What is color psychology?’ Let’s cut to the chase. Color psychology is the study of the impact that color has on human behavior. Simply said, color psychology (PDF) helps us figure out what people tend to feel and think when they see certain colors. People form an unconscious opinion about a thing, a person, or an environment within 90 seconds of first viewing, according to the Institute for Color Research. Furthermore, an astounding 62% to 90% of that evaluation is based solely on color.

Different colors can mean different things to different people, depending on the culture, family traditions, preferences, lifestyle, profession, and past experiences. For instance, the color red symbolizes luck and happiness in Chinese culture while western cultures associate it with violence and anger. That being said, color experts have identified associations that are shared by all or many of us. Our personal attachment to certain colors can differ, but there is a common ground we share when it comes to color.

Simply by using a specific color or combination of different colors, we can cause a feeling and even a reaction in those who see those colors. You have probably reacted to colors many times and in many ways without even realizing it. The whiteness of a doctor’s or dentist’s office gives us a sense of calm and cleanliness. The vast majority of the population (except for those of us who read the nutrition labels) tends to associate the green color on food packaging to healthfulness, freshness, and natural ingredients, so they feel better about reaching for these items in comparison to those packaged in other colors.

What Do Different Colors Tell Us?

Have you ever been shown a shirt or a dress in a store to try on, but you quickly reply with ‘those are not really my colors’ answer? Or maybe you associate very bright, neon colors to cheapness? We can all agree that we associate pink with Barbie® and yellow with discounts at the supermarket, but there are other meanings we and other people attach to colors that we might not even be aware of. Let’s take a closer look at the meaning and psychology of colors:

Red is a pretty obvious one. It creates a sense of excitement, passion, energy, and action. As we mentioned before, we tend to associate red with anger and violence. Red lights of the police cars, stop signs, and blood are some of the elements that can make us shy away from red.

Orange represents creativity, adventure, and confidence. It can also produce a warm feeling, since it reminds us of the sun. Some say it can also provoke negative feelings such as deprivation or sluggishness.

Yellow is associated with youthfulness, optimism, clarity, and warmth. Same as with orange, we associate it with sunshine and summer. Also, it is used as a sign for caution: police tape, discounts, street signs.

Green represents growth, nature, health, and freshness. It represents life. It can also be representative of money and can sometimes conjure connotations of envy.

Blue conveys security, strength, wisdom, trust, and loyalty. Blue is one of the most popular colors when it comes to logos, across a variety of industries and for both men and women-owned businesses. That being said, it also has some negative connotations: it can transmit coldness and unfriendliness, and since it is not common in foods, it has been known to suppress appetite.

Purple is associated with royalty and superiority. It transmits power, influence, wisdom, and notability. It can also represent moodiness, excess, and arrogance.

Pink is popular for representing playfulness and femininity. Yet, it might generate a rebellious and childish vibe, depending on the context.

White evokes cleanliness, innocence, purity, and simplicity. It can have negative connotations such as plainness, emptiness, and sterility.

Black is associated with power, sophistication, and elegance. But it also represents oppression, evil, mourning and coldness.

Grey represents neutrality and balance.

Brown stands for structure, security, and protection.

Depending on the color(s) you choose for your website, logo, or promotion materials you might be conveying many different messages to your potential customers/clients/patients. That is why it’s important to give it some thought and choose those that best represent the values and motives behind your brand.

Why you need color psychology (PDF) for your business? Two people choosing colors

Why Do You Need Color Psychology (PDF) for Your Business?

Maybe you didn’t think you would need to worry about color psychology when you first thought about starting that side gig, business or blog.  But you have probably thought about how you can promote your services and/or the contents that you are about to create. That is, you have thought about marketing. And that is where color psychology (PDF) comes in. If used correctly it can help you attract the attention of the right people, of those who are looking to buy what you are selling or even those who didn’t even realize they needed just that.

If we take a closer look at the logos or websites of different well-established companies, we can see that in many cases the colors that were used were not just randomly picked. It is true that we don’t buy a car based on the color of the logo of the company that manufactured it, but we do subconsciously connect a color with a feeling or an experience. And that sticks with us and influences how we act, whether we like it or not.

Let’s look at some examples:

Companies like IKEA, McDonalds, DHL, and National Geographic use yellow as the main color in their logos. Ford, Volkswagen, Oral-B, NASA, and American Express chose blue as their color. Green is the signature color of Whole Foods, John Deere, Starbucks, and Land Rover. Wikipedia, Tesla, and Apple share white as the main color of their brand. And I could keep going…

Do you notice a pattern? What do the brands that use the same color have in common? Again, it isn’t just a coincidence. Look at those brands or others that you like and keep going back to. Ask yourself what attracted you to the product or brand in the first place and why do you keep going back. Try to think if the logo, the color of the packaging, or the website have anything to do with it.

How do you choose your colors?  Hands holding color samples

How Do You Choose Your Colors?

So, in order to choose the right color(s) for your brand you should ask yourself and/or your team, some important questions:

  • What is our mission and vision for our brand?
  • What is our feature product and/or high-ticket offer?
  • How do we want to be remembered as a brand/company?
  • What emotions do we want to evoke?
  • Who is our target audience and ideal client?
  • What is our competition doing?
  • How can we stand out from the noise?

Brainstorm, create a mind map, and jot down all the possible ideas that come to mind.

Some final tips and tricks:

  • Think outside the box. Just because many health-oriented companies and brands use green, it doesn’t mean you can’t transmit a similar message with a different color or combination of colors.
  • Play around with different tints, shades, and tones of the colors. Not all blues are created equal, think of royal blue versus baby blue. The sensations and emotions these two tins evoke are quite different even though they are the same color.
  • Pay attention to the shakes and font(s) you use in your logo. They can add depth and volume or they can over complicate it. Don’t overdo it. Keep it simple.
  • Include the essential colors. Don’t use too many. You can’t tell the whole story of your company with just a logo. So don’t try. Your logo is supposed to be straightforward, memorable, and simple. If it’s not legible and attractive, then people might totally miss the meaning and move along because they don’t understand what it is exactly that you’re selling. And what’s even worse, it won’t stick with them. They might forget they ever saw or tried your product or services.

Takeaway

You already know there is a lot of competition out there. I don’t need to tell you that. But by applying this new knowledge and new tools you just learned about you can set yourself apart from the crowd. Hopefully, the questions you will ask yourself as you choose the colors for your brand or business will help you place yourself in your future customers shoes. And that is exactly how you will provide them with the best services possible.  As an expert in your field and as a dietitian, you have all the necessary qualifications and knowledge to do just that. You just need to catch the attention of those looking for just that: your expertise. And color psychology (PDF) is just the thing you need. Now go and make your brand’s image memorable!

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