How we see colorScience describes how humans perceive color. Specifically, color is light. In his 1704 book Opticks, Sir Isaac Newton described his observation that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into a spectrum of seven hues (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) known as the visual spectrum.
Newton clearly states that color is not a property of objects observed or of light. Rather, it is a product of the mind. His proof was that he could create a color that was not part of the light spectrum (magenta) by overlapping two hues that were a part of it (red and violet). That is why we say color is subjective. All people see color differently depending on a multitude of environmental factors.
When Newton connected the red and violet ends of the spectrum, he created the first color wheel, thus showing the relationship between colors in the visible spectrum.
Two Types of Color SystemsA color wheel is arranged according to the chromatic relationship of the colors. There are two types of color systems – additive (RGB) and subtractive (CMYK). Televisions, computer monitors and smart phone screens are examples of the RGB color system in action. Color printing and color photography are examples of the CMYK color system.
Lack of overlap between color systemsThe additive and subtractive color systems are not perfectly overlapping. For instance, you might have noticed a difference between the color displayed on your computer monitor and the same color used on a printed piece. The reason for the difference is based in science.
The human eye can see billions of colors in the visible spectrum; RGB light can reproduce 16 million colors; and CMYK printing can reproduce 5,000-6,000 colors. When a color is in both the RGB and CMYK color gamuts, it may look identical. But if an RGB color is outside the CMYK gamut, it may be quite different. Please keep this in mind if you are creating the artwork for printing. Graphic designers creating for print automatically work in the CMYK color space.
How color affects purchasing decisionsDuring the purchasing process, color is a very influential factor on the subconscious mind. Kissmetrics recently published a series of infographics on how colors affect purchases. Among the findings:
- 93% consider visual appearance and color first above all other factors when shopping.
- 85% cite color as a primary reason for buying a particular product.
- Color increases brand recognition by 80%.
Some colors are associated with types of customers:
- Yellow is used to attract window shoppers.
- Red is often seen in clearance sales.
- Blue is used by banks and businesses to create a sense of trust and security.
- Green is used in stores for relaxation.
- Red, orange, black and royal blue attract impulse shoppers and are used for fast food and outlet malls.
- Navy blue and teal appeal to shoppers on a budget and are often used by large department stores.
- Pink, sky blue and rose attract traditional buyers and are often used by clothing stores.
Here’s a recently published color emotion guide with examples of corporate logos for each color.
- Yellow: optimism, clarity, warmth. A rich color that invokes gold and treasure. Used by McDonald’s, Hertz, Best Buy, Shell Oil, Sun Chips, Sprint, Subway.
- Orange: friendly, cheerful, confident, creative, youthful, enthusiastic. Used by Nickelodeon, Fanta, Crush, Hooters, Gulf Oil, Firefox, Home Depot, Harley-Davidson.
- Red: excitement, youthful, bold, warm, exciting, sexy, urgent. Used by Nintendo, KMart, Coca Cola, Target, Lego, Kellogg’s, Netflix.
- Purple: creative, imaginative, wise. Suggests images of grandeur, opulence, mysticism. Used by Syfy Channel, Hallmark, Yahoo!, Taco Bell, Cadbury.
- Blue: trust, dependability, strength. Suggests calm and tranquility. Used by Dell, IBM, Intel, AT&T, Pfizer, WalMart, Volkswagen, Oreo, HP, Twitter.
- Green: peaceful, serene, growth, health. Used by Whole Foods, John Deere, Girl Scouts, Animal Planet, H&R Block, Starbucks.
- Gray/silver: Balance, neutral, calm. Used by Mercedes Benz, Honda, Apple.
Blue and red are the most popular logo colors for the world’s top brands – a fact that has remained true over the years. In 2013, Wired magazine reported that two-thirds of corporate America’s logos were either blue or red (with blue logos slightly ahead of red).