“Colours answer feeling in man; shapes answer thought; and motion answers will.” John Sterling


Colour is everywhere we look (and everywhere we don’t look). It is both light and energy and can be categorised into different wavelengths – some visible and some not. The visible wavelengths make up the spectrum of colours that we see, along with the combination of all colours (white) and the absence of colour (black). Surfaces reflect and absorb light differently, which give us the colours we see through our eyes. A tomato absorbs all light on the spectrum except the red rays; these are reflected off the surface of the tomato and then reach our eyes for processing. Other wavelengths and frequencies are associated with non-visible light such as x-rays and ultraviolet rays. In the psychological phenomenon known as “synesthesia,” individuals’ sensory systems are a bit more intertwined than usual. Some people, for example, report seeing colors when musical notes are played – (ScienceDaily – July 24, 2007), often colours are referred to as being loud or quiet.

But while most of us are aware of the effects of non-visible light, what about the effects of visible light? We know that light enters through our eyes, but did you realise that light and colour can also enter through our skin? This physical effect has been proven in experiments – blind people have successfully identified colours using only their fingertips. Given the unique frequencies and vibrations of individual colours, people believe that certain colours entering the body can activate hormones causing chemical reactions within the body, thus influencing emotion and even enabling the body to heal.

Psychologist, Carl Jung, encouraged his patients to use colour because he felt this would help them express some of the deeper parts of their psyche. It is believed that the colour choices you make reflect a deeper meaning about your personality traits. For example, introverts and extroverts are likely to choose different colours. The colours you choose to wear might also say something about how you are feeling that day. Additionally, wearing certain colours may cause you to react differently to certain situations.

The author of the Colour Affects System, Angela Wright, identified links between patterns of colours and patterns of human behaviour. Her basic premise is that there are four colour families and four basic personality types, with each personality type having a natural affinity with one colour family. The system applies equally to personal colour, interior design and branding.

When deciding on a colour palette for a brand, for example, it is important to consider its characteristics, values, aspirations and target audience and then decide on the most appropriate colour palette to communicate the desired personality most powerfully. Claims have been made that colour can be used to increase sales, boost a brand’s popularity and even motivate staff and reduce absenteeism.

Marketing and advertising are well-known for utilising colour psychology. The fact that some companies have heavily invested in this type of research and many others have followed through in its use shows they have enough belief in the concepts of colour psychology to implement them in their advertising. Colour is consistently used in an attempt to make people hungry, associate a positive or negative tone, encourage trust, feelings of calmness or energy and countless other ways.

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