What is the power of color in design?

Specifically, how does color impact brands, their customers, and people with disabilities?

I was not about to try and answer this question on my own. Trust me, I am not best when it comes to understanding colors. I needed extra help when we learned about colors in art class in elementary school.

So, I turned to a person who knows color… and one who knows color kind of well…

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. We started by talking about emotion…

“It’s simple to say that certain colors have certain meanings. I don’t think it’s that simple, though.”

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

“There are scientific studies that could answer this. Like red is exciting and passionate… Then there are the social implications of color that we learn in our society like pink is feminine, and blue is masculine. We can think about those things, the things that you can Google — for example, you can Google what every color means.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

But beyond that, how will emotion be elicited when using a color when we consider the context it’s in? What imagery will be with it, what type of copy is with it, who is this brand, and what would a specific color mean for the brand? How would it impact them?

It’s simple to say that certain colors have certain meanings. I don’t think it’s that simple, though.” 

To what extent does color matter when it comes to recognizing a brand?

“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.

For me personally, I don’t think color is really going to make a brand indistinguishable or unrecognizable for someone.

I think there are 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 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.

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.”

When it comes to businesses that are not as recognizable as a company like a Google or a Nike, does a website’s color have an impact on which business a person is more likely to engage with?

“I definitely think so.

I think there’s often the desire to do what other companies in the industry are doing. But I think there’s an opportunity with color to see what’s out there and do something totally different to set yourself apart from other companies.

Photo by Denise Chan on Unsplash

I think experimenting with color shows a confidence in the product or service you are sharing or selling to people. If you feel confident enough in what you are doing, the color isn’t going to scare people away. It’s just going to build that association with what you are doing.”

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

“If you are seeing three different websites, it is natural to want to gravitate toward the one that stands out more rather than picking one of three that are the same thing. I think color is a big component to what makes a website stand out.  

One of your website visitors might think, ‘They are using this hot pink in a world of traditional blue and that’s really interesting. I want to learn more about this company.’ Because 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.  

I think color can also scare some people away from your brand, but I think that’s a question of who is your audience and how you want to speak to them. Once you recognize that as much as you might want them to, everyone is not going to be your audience. So if you focus in and build a strong community of people you want to talk to, you can do a lot with using color as the first interaction with those people.”

What if a company is committed to a color that is commonly used?

“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?”

Photo by Cody Davis on Unsplash

How does color impact people with a disability?

“Taking into consideration those who are blind, color blind, or low vision makes for a prime example of how a brand can’t just rely on color to represent who they are. Color is important, but it’s only one piece of a larger brand story.

When you rely too heavily on a color to do the work of telling your story and communicating your brand, you leave an entire population out of the conversation.

It’s not only more thorough and effective to consider other components to your brand, but it also makes your brand accessible and creates the opportunity for a relationship with all customers.”