“What’s your favourite colour?” Ronnie asked out of the blue one day.

Seven year-old-me was in a tizzy. We were at the swing set, swinging away in the golden afternoon sunlight. It made me consider how my favourite colour was going to influence our friendship in the years to come.

Growing up, the concept of having a favourite colour seemed far more important than it turned out to be. That question hasn’t been put up to me in recent years, unless as a security measure for password recovery. Even so, we don’t put any voluntary thought into realizing what our favourite colour is in our prosaic existence.

But colours do influence our subconscious. It fires up certain nodes in our brain and activates other nodes that we associate to that certain colour. This associative network in our brain means we have an emotional response to colours and that can very well lead to us feeling a certain way, triggered by a mere dash of red on a shirt or a tinge of yellow in water.


Photo by Helgi Halldórsson / CC BY-SA

Colour psychology deals with the behavioural response colours evoke in people based on perception, mood or placebo. Certain colours have a universal association with symbolising an abstract concept. Blue might be associated with calmness and stimulates feelings of trust and order. It’s no wonder Superman’s costume is blue. The red of his cape represents strength and is associated with the sun from which he draws his power.


Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, fot. PAP / Kikapress

Companies and brands take colour psychology into play when marketing their product and influence buyer decisions in nimble ways. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even American Express use blue primarily as it makes them seem trustworthy and secure. Or even Oral-B for that matter, as nobody wants to take dental hygiene lightly.


Credit: Time.com / Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Red is very evident in food chains like McDonalds, KFC, Domino’s and Burger King. It’s a high arousal colour and stimulates appetite or an impulsive buying decision. Maybe it’s the red in the Target logo that turns you into a shopaholic or the red Netflix logo that keeps you up all night, binge watching entire seasons.


Source: imdb.com

Optimism and confidence are associated with yellow, another high arousal colour which triggers logical thought. It’s present on the National Geographic logo and on IMDb, perhaps as a subtle display of clarity. How about the yellow on the Ikea logo to get your mental gears churning when it’s time to assemble their furniture?


Green has a universal connotation with nature and fertility. It’s on the logos of Tropicana and Subway to symbolise organic and fresh food. It’s also present on the Starbucks logo. But then again, green also represents money.

The Google logo is a combination of blue, red, green and yellow. According to the designerRuth Kedar “The colours evoke memories of child play, but deftly stray from the colour wheel strictures so as to hint to the inherent element of serendipity creeping into any search results page”. It creates a harmony and ensures us with a familiar feeling. Ebay has a similar combination of colours on its logo.

Now these connotations might not always hold true. Staring at a blue screen of death on your computer would not have a calming effect nor would green veggies be very appetising to children. But colours have a vital effect on how we react based on our perception of the colour. My favourite colour of course, is purple; the colour of gentle and free spirits. I like it more thanred and blue combined.

This is a guest post by Augustus Franklin from CallHub . Augustus drives the product and business development at CallHub. He’s been building software products for over 18 years. He has worked in internet software, high-availability clusters, monitoring systems and security software at startups and at Sun Microsystems and Yahoo. When he is not working, he is either making toys or training for a marathon.

Twitter: @augfrank

LinkedIn: augfrank