Feb 23, 2007

The Meaning of Color in Web Design

For most of us, a rainbow of colours envelopes our lives. Over 80% of visual information is related to colour.¹ What colours and combinations of colours stimulate people to be interested in different things? What colours make us feel pleasure or disapproval, hot or cold, to be attracted or repelled, our appetite stimulated or suppressed?

Many reactions to colour are instinctual, universal and cross cultural boundaries. "Colors also convey messages that go beyond ethnic, racial, or gender boundaries. According to a 1997 survey by Cooper Marketing Group, Oak Park, IL, power is represented by the color scarlet red for 25% of respondents, black for 17% and bright violet blue for 13%. More than 55% of those surveyed chose one of these three colors out of 100 colors. Fragility was most represented by pale pink (27%), white (9%), and pale lavender (9%)."²

Other associations with colours are specific to a culture or regions. Mixing appropriate amounts of different colours however can neutralise inherent negative cultural connotations.

Web design which achieves successful marketing results is sensitive to the cultural, instinctual and iconic meanings of colour in relation to the product being promoted and considers the cultural backgrounds and gender of the targeted clientele. Avoiding the extremes of sheer garishness and boredom, effective design displays symphonic colour arrangements of shades, tints, tones and complementarities to tantalise and maintain interest. Adding textures too can alter colours - a roughly textured surface makes a colour seem darker, while a smooth surface lightens the same colour.

Colour trends may defy instinctual, cultural and iconic constraints - for example, the recent craze for vivid lime green. As Jill Morton says: "Psychologically, the 'anti-aesthetic' colors may well capture more attention than those on the aesthetically-correct list. History clearly demonstrates that this has been a prevalent trend in art since the turn of the 20th century, when Dada's urinals and snow shovels put an end to the era of Matisse and French Impressionism."³

To share your thoughts with the author of this article about the meaning of colours, please feel free to register and post on the Sibagraphics blog.

Sibagraphics © 2004, 2006.

¹ Jill Morton, http://www.colormatters.com/color_trademark.html
² Kathy Lamancusa, 2003, http://www.creativelatitude.com/articles/articles_lamacusa_color.html
³ Jill Morton, 2000, http://www.colormatters.com/chatquest.html
4 Ibid.
5 Jacci Howard Bear, http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/colorselection/p/turquoise.htm
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