The Science of Colours, and How You Can Harness It
Everyone knows what colour theory is. Though we might not even be seeing the same thing, the ingrained associations and cultural factors that affect every shade of the rainbow can equally skew our perceptions of it.
Take white. To us, it’s a clean slate; a pure background, an inviting blank page. But in China, white is a funereal colour, an accompaniment to death and mourning. And what about the psychological properties of colours, as opposed to cultural? They matter, too – more than you might think.
Here’s a quick guide to applying colour theory in the workplace, your personal life and beyond.
In everyday life
Ever heard of ‘thin slicing’? Us neither. It’s a term psychologists use for the small, five-minute window within which we draw conclusions about people we have just met. These judgments include summations of our intelligence, power and health, and are based on style of communication, body language, clothes – and yes, the colours we wear.
We all know the basics: red is danger, blue is safety, purple is creativity and power… Back in 2015, a mini-survey of 1000 people suggested that men and women both prefer the colour black when considering romantic partners. Maybe that’s why the most popular clothing colours on Tinder are monochrome. This is all very well, but a wider appreciation of colour can alter your mood, enhance your style and subtly change the way you are perceived.
Shake it up. If you’re a regular goth – or just someone who really loves black – there are easy ways to put colour theory into practice. And if you’re already a bright spark, it might help to consider whether the colours you’re wearing actually work for you. Next time you’re ‘thin-sliced’, be ready to make the best impression you can.
In the workplace
If you can do it on the weekend, you can do it in the workplace. And, in the case of bright dressing, it turns out you should. In fact, wearing colour as opposed to going monochrome could help you nab that promotion.
An easy way for men to apply colour theory to their career is via that classic workplace stalwart: the tie. This innocent-seeming accessory presents the perfect opportunity to jazz up an otherwise uncommunicative suit. Red gives an impression of power, while the right yellow can connote optimism and approachability.
For ladies, similar rules apply. While blue or green might encourage better performance, red can increase attraction and attention in the right circumstances. However, red is a dangerous one, being particular associated with lower intelligence and increased sexuality on a woman. If in doubt, stick to the ground rules.
Colour has long been used to influence sales. And come on, who hasn’t made a purchase just because they liked the colour the product came in? Shade associations are important and frequently used to reflect ideals and function in branding. For example, green – the colour of health, tranquility and nature – can be used in stores to relax customers. Orange and yellow encourage brightness and optimism, while blue – a popular colour, especially among men – promotes trust among more conservative customers.
For an example, look no further than your local golden arches. McDonald’s has historically met with incredible success, not least because of its trademark red-yellow branding combination. Red stimulates appetite, while yellow provokes feelings of positivity and childish pleasure.
Recently, the company’s move towards a wider colour palette – introducing green in particular into branded products – has signaled a change in the McDonalds brand. In an attempt to shake off its reputation as an ‘unhealthy’ fast-food brand, it is using colour to subtly re-brand as a progressive, eco-friendly food company.
So next time you go to don that grey blouse or that red dress, or flood your business card background with blue, remember the implications that come with those choices. Every colour sends a message. And, as loud as words, your decisions speak for who you are and what you’re selling to the world. Make sure they’re saying something worth hearing.
This guest post was authored by Inspiring Interns
Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.