01 Apr

The Value of Color

How Does Color Influence Our Decisions?

The AIGA San Diego Y21 Design Conference in April offered an opportunity for a catered lunch at the Garden by the Sea with local AIGA Fellows and Industry Leaders. Lunch with local design leader, Laura Coe Wright focused on color and its influence on consumer decisions.

The lunch began with a short personality test that provided insight from each participant’s qualities that formed the individual’s distinctive character. The group was surprised at how accurate this small glimpse was of their own personality and this opened up a discussion on how certain colors affect them. One attendee mentioned that what she was wearing was chosen based on how she felt that morning. I confessed I was guilty of influencing the group with what I chose to wear because I was speaking to them. I chose Blue. Established. Honest. Trustworthy. Dependable.

Color does matter. Research shows people recall 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, but 80% of what they see. “Colors are forces of radiant energies that affect us positively or negatively whether you know it or not.” said Johannes Itten, who created theories of color in the ‘20’s. Color can capture your attention or send a powerful message.

The psychology of color is a real thing. A day earlier I was surprised to hear one speaker, Thomas Albright, a professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies with a PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience, mention the book, Drunk Tank Pink during his talk. He went on to explain jail cells were painted pink to calm violent prisoners. Research shows the pink walls actually have a physical affect; your heart muscles cannot race fast enough keeping you calmer. Although pink is a tranquilizing color, it may only be short term.

At COE Design, our business focuses on branding and packaging solutions. Packaging is the first touch-point for most consumers making the brand come to life. This makes color a very important decision. Because 70% of consumer buying is done at shelf, the packaging structure and graphics can make or break a sale. It takes 90 seconds to make a subconscious judgment. Why wouldn’t you want that impression to be the strongest possible? The wrong color can be an irreversible mistake knowing 85% of sales are based on color alone.

If your personality can be conveyed through use of color, so can your brand. The brand personality delivers its largest impression the moment someone picks up your package. Red is warm, passionate and confident. Red actually enhances physical reactions as it is programmed into our psyche as a cue for danger. Yet retailers use this color to grab attention and influence you to take action on clearance sales. The instinct to ‘grab and go’ or ‘buy and fly’ takes over.

I mentioned blue earlier; blue is an established color of corporate America and the most popular color. Blue emotes feelings for trust, harmony and dependability. HP, IBM and GE are blue so most clients feel safe choosing blue. Not all blues are calm and serene. For instance, adding yellow to blue can change the color to aqua or turquoise vs. adding red shifts it to purple. Today, you will see a much wider range of blues and you need to understand the effect of these color shifts. It is possible another shade or hue of blue would better suit your company. You should not choose your brand’s color simply because it has always been your favorite.

Color can capture your attention or send a powerful message. Take another look at what your color is really saying to the world.

Laura Coe Wright, Principal and Director of Design for COE Design, has over 30 years experience working with consumer brands and products. Laura began her career in Ohio creating color palettes, graphics and literature for various product lines including many private labels before relocating to San Diego, California. A founding member of AIGA San Diego, and past treasurer, Laura currently serves on the Advisory Board for the AIGA San Diego chapter.

AIGA, is the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design and is an advocate for a greater understanding of the value of design and designers in government, business, and media.

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