The Science of Web Development vs The Emotion of Design: Part II – The Emotion of Design

Colour means different things to different people. During our lifetime we all interact and react with colours in different ways.

Our favourite colours say a lot about us as people and are chosen because of a highly personalised exposure during specific periods of our lives.

The trouble with choosing colours for your website design though, is that it can say a lot about the work itself.

That’s scientific fact.

The technicalities behind our emotional preferences to colour is complex. But after years of research through first-hand accounts and scientific experimentation, it’s finally beginning to become a little clearer.

In part two of our blog The Science of Web Development vs The Emotion of Design (part one can be found here), we’re going to look in depth at how colour and design intersperse and how people react to them.

Our Brains & Colour 

an image of a brain separated into colourful sections

It might be possible that our brains are made in a way that makes us like, or dislike certain colours. It all comes from a study undertaken in the US that links our brains neural processes to certain hues.

The study tells us that contextual changes in colour within someone’s field of vision changes depending on what other tones accompany it. As an example imagine your eye is drawn to a beautiful rosey red colour on a website, but as you’re scrolling down, it’s paired up with shocking electric blue.

It doesn’t work and we know it, which causes a strong emotional aversion to this colour pairing.

The study also discovered that the visual systems in the brains of monkeys reacted according to different colour stimuli. The brain is affected most by reds, greens, blues and other colours with a high saturation point. This essentially tells us that these colours impact and draw attention very quickly.

This study has had a profound effect on the creative community, in the sense that anyone who designs or works on websites could benefit from knowing how humans react to colour on a base level.

Colour Impacts Our Reasoning & Intuition

an image of goethes colour wheel

Research has been completed on the subject of colour for centuries and much of which still informs our research and opinions even today.

In 1810, a scientist named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (cool name right?) published the ‘Theory of Colour’. He also created the first colour wheel, where he was able to associate specific colours with psychological impact.

His book is still regarded as one of the most important in the genre.

How Colour Impacts Consumer Habits Online

According to a recent University study, the specific colours used in a company’s logo have a marked impact on how the world views that logo and the brand associated with it. The study found associations with certain colours and their perception with consumers.

For example:

  • Blue logos stirred feelings of confidence, success and dependability.
  • Green logos suggested environmentally friendly, durability and sustainability.
  • Purple evoked glamour, femininity and charisma.
  • Pink is perceived to be youthful, imaginative and fashion-conscious.
  • Yellow is considered to be more fun and modern.
  • Red suggested expert knowledge and confidence.

These findings fly directly in the face of some of the pre-conceived notions about certain colours. For example, red is considered to be a very emotional, aggressive and romantic colour, but this study found no participants felt these kinds of feelings when presented with a red logo.

This can probably be correlated with the fact that many of our most famous brands such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, KFC and Lego carry red logos – all of which are company’s which create products that, by-and-large, we have positive relationships with.

So, as modern day designers, are we doing an injustice to our clients and ourselves by ignoring findings like these in lieu of a more traditional approach or does it pay to follow the road less travelled?

 

Attempting to seamlessly fuse colour, science and emotion is never an easy task. While science is helping us to understand the technical considerations much more thoroughly, it is also throwing up some fascinating contradictions about what we thought we knew about colour, design and emotional response.

Some colours will never get used as much as others, but it’s important to play around with concepts and designs, to understand how they do or not bond with potential consumers.

You never know, you may well learn something about your own relationship with colour.