May Nuggets - colour theorising

It’s May and the cherry blossoms are out in full force, which has gotten me thinking about colour and how, as designers, we use colour to influence our design in more than one way.

Colour theory?

When I think about colour theory, I default to thinking about the more technical side: colour wheels, schemes and how different colours can come together (triad, composite, complimentary etc.), and I often overlook the most obvious aspect of colour: the way different colours make us feel.

Tickled blue, feeling pink?

Colours can make us feel all kinds of different ways, and we understand that certain colours are supposed to convey different meanings. On the basic psychology side: blue means cold or calming; red is a warning, green is good and natural; yellow is happy and positive; purple is luxurious.

So those were a few obvious examples, but colour and feeling goes much deeper than that. Certain colours can have associations with specific movements, eras or even ideas. And these associations become even more powerful when you put colours together in a palette. 

The psychology of colour is so simple, it’s something I think we all take for granted every day, because we perceive it without really thinking about it.

A great example is the new Burger King branding, it's so bright, and simple, and it has a kind of retro feel to it. It gives off effortless good times vibes that makes us (or me anyway) crave the carefree delight of a simple burger.

I mean, tell me you don’t want a burger right now!

Colour palettes of the decades:

70's shades

80's pastels

90's neons

Colour and branding

Colour helps tell stories by making us feel in different ways, not just in the obvious red = alert and green = go kind of way, but in a deeper way that takes cues from culture, experiences and associations.

So it’s a given that colour has an important role to play in every brand’s image and it can be powerful in reinforcing a brand’s personality. And colour influences the brand not just the logo colour, or even the selected brand colours used in messaging, but also in the treatment of imagery, grading of video, packaging and more. 

Want more on colour? Check these good reads out:

Webflow on a Beginner’s guide to color theory

JKR’s portfolio piece on their Burger King rebrand *drool*

Plus, these super handy tools for picking colour palettes and working with colour:

CSS Hero Mesher - create mesh gradients with CSS

Coolors - a really handy tool for exploring and choosing colours