What is the power of color in design? How does color impact brands, their customers, and people with disabilities?

To answer these questions, let me introduce you to our Design Lead, Emma Foley. I interviewed her to discuss why color matters when designing websites and how color impacts the perception of brands. Here’s a transcript of our discussion…

On Color: An Interview with Design Lead Emma Foley

What is the power of color when it comes to our emotions?

There are scientific studies that speak to color’s relationship with emotion. Like red is exciting and passionate, blue is calming, etc. There are also social implications of color that we learn in our different societies—like pink is feminine, and blue is masculine.

As a designer, it’s important to know how an emotion will be elicited when using a color—especially given the context it’s in. What imagery will be used in tandem it? What type of copy? Who is this brand, and what would a specific color mean for the industry? How would it impact them?

You can google almost any color and there are different emotions that are associated with it. So,

To what extent does color matter when it comes to branding and brand recognition?

I think color can be a very impactful way in sparking recognition quickly, but that also depends on a lot of other factors in terms of ensuring that people know that this your color. There’s so much more that goes into a brand than a logo and color. There’s the way you talk to people. There’s the experience of walking into a place. Color is just one part of that.

As a designer, I usually see two schools of thought with this: it’s either, “This is our brand color, that’s it, we have to use it.” Or, “We have a color and we can play around with that because the rest of how we present ourselves is very strong and solid.”

I don’t think a color is really going to make a brand indistinguishable or unrecognizable for someone. You can really take advantage of color, though, in some ways and use it to represent who you are and use it to convey certain emotions and feelings.

Does color on a brand’s website affect if a brand stands out from the competition?

I definitely think so. There’s often the desire to do what other companies in the industry are doing. A lot of banks use blue. A lot of healthcare organizations use red. But I think there’s an opportunity with color to see what’s out there and then do something totally different to set yourself apart from other organizations.

Color is such an immediate thing, you don’t have to read anything. You don’t have to spend a lot of time with it. It’s an immediate reaction. It’s a big component to what makes a website stand out.

That said, I color can also scare some people away from your brand. When to deviate and which color to use is a questions of your audience is and how you want to speak to them. As with a lot of design choices, if you focus in and build a strong community of people you want to talk to, you can do a lot with using color to stand apart and connect with specific audiences.

What would you say to a company that’s a little nervous to experiment with color? 

It’s just going to build that association with what you are doing.

You don’t have to deviate completely from the industry or your current brand colors either. Let’s say you are committed to a blue. What other colors can you pair with the blue to make it stand out and feel fresh and different beyond the blue?

How does color impact people with a disability?

Color contrast one of the biggest things to be aware of when it comes to color and designing for people with disabilities. Designers should take into consideration those who are blind, color blind, or those who have low vision.

There are two big things to consider with color and accessibility: 1) Don’t use color as the only way to communicate something, and 2) Don’t use poor contrasting colors.

Color is important, but it’s only one piece of a larger accessibility effort.

  • Brendan Hufford

  • Design
  • 4 min read

  • Brendan Hufford

  • Design
  • 4 min read