Looking at color and the way humans respond to color, color meanings, color history in design and the places that prefer certain colors; you can see how important it is as a designer to have the proper knowledge of designing with color. As humans our ability to respond emotionally to color, and our ability to visualize color internally, also demonstrates that color is part of our psyche (Koening 192). For human beings, color is both a physical and emotional experience. “We respond to color because of its associations we have, our own personal preferences for particular color combinations, and our experience of the world is in some ways characterized by our observation of color” (Koening xi).
Color or the concept of color can be approached from different perspectives. When looking at the human response to color viewed from a psychological perspective it is called color psychology. Color psychology is the science that deals with color and the mind, mental and emotional processes with special reference to behavior; behavior being understood as thoughts, feelings, and dreams, or just anything that a person experiences (Mahnke 6). The eye and the mind are stimulated by color. To perceive color means to experience or be aware of color. Color is apart of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. It’s an experience that is integral to human behavior. The human reaction to a color, color combination and to the environment is always a psychological one (Mahnke 6).
All of the color stimuli that we receive from the external world are connected with our internal world. Different colors are universal and represent aspects of the environment that we all see everyday. When we step outside we can automatically associate the color blue with the sky and green to grass. Different colors can cause us to experience different emotions that we are sometimes not aware of and don’t take the time to consider color even being the cause. Nervousness, headaches, lack of concentration, bad moods, anxiety, and stress are examples of feelings that are usually blamed on everything except the environment, which is often the cause of these feelings (Mahnke 3). Reactions to color are very spontaneous. “The reaction, often due to the perception of a color rather than to the color itself, may be positive or negative” (Credo).
Let’s take for example the colors red, yellow, and blue which are considered the primary colors, and how they affect a person’s mood or what they are feeling. Red causes people to experience hunger, courage, passion, love, excitement, danger, and anger. “Red has the most power, heat, and activity of all colors” (Inviting home ). It is a color that commands our attention and cannot be ignored. Red is believed to be the first color that babies see and in most languages it is also the first color named after black and white. Studies have also found that the brain function of humans is more affected by red than any other color of equal intensity because red is exciting to the human brain.
The color yellow brings about emotions of warmth, enlightenment, communication, cheerfulness, deceitfulness, optimism, and compassion. “With its luminous heat and high reflection, yellow advances to the eyes so that it appears to be the largest of all colors” (Eiseman 46). Yellow is an excellent color to use to draw the eye to areas where attention is needed or to highlight a focal point. Yellow is seen by most people as one of the happiest colors; it’s very welcoming.
Now the color blue on the other hand brings about different emotions or feelings such as; honesty, truth, loyalty, masculinity, tranquility, harmony, and confidence. Blue is cool and soothing like the sky and water. Blue is a mature color that creates an atmosphere conducive to relaxation, contemplation and meditation. Blue is a timeless and refreshing color that refreshes the spirit ( Inviting home). “Physiologically, the viewing of blue reduces blood pressure and heartbeat, and respiration rate, and causes a calming effect (Eiseman 65).
Just about every color created was derived from one of the three colors mentioned above or all of them. So every color has some kind of an effect on a person and how they perceive the color. Color is a powerful tool. It attracts our attention; as described in the color descriptions. It also conveys information, and reflects mood and content. Color is definitely a fundamental language of design (Credo ).
When designers choose a color scheme, they always try to establish a particular relationship with the visitor or user. Color in public and in work spaces is a very complex topic. For example, color in medical facilities will often be handled differently than in hospitality interiors, office interiors, retail businesses, or production or assembly-line facilities. The differences lie in the specialized needs of the users of these environments. Designers must be knowledgeable and sensitive to those needs, which govern emotional responses, since they can affect behavior, attitude, and productivity (Nielson 98).
Color is essential for life, and it has a much bigger role than often realized. Great designers are aware of the role of color and make it a priority to be as knowledgeable as possible in order to create the spaces that are desired. Color is often misused and misunderstood. Certain colors and certain combinations don’t always mix well together. An important thing to remember when using color in design is, “We shape our environments; therefore they shape us” (Nielson 4).
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