Some of you reading this might be graphic designers, or have graphic design teams working on your documents. For you, this will be a bit of a refresher, as colour psychology is already intrinsic to everything you do. This article, then, is geared at those who are venturing into the realm of design for the first time. Maybe you’re printing off posters for an event, maybe you’re creating business cards for yourself, maybe you’re creating a banner for a pop-up kiosk or flyers for your store. No matter what you’re doing, you need to know about the profound effect colour has on our perception.


Think of black and gold. What comes to mind? Probably words like “formal”, “powerful”, “rich”, “extravagant”. You might have had images of celebrities in art deco ballrooms with ornate chandeliers. Now, think of blues and greens; the words that come to mind might be very different. “Calm”, “Soothing”, “Natural”, “Peaceful”. You might have thought of the ocean, or a gurgling creek in a forest. Colour psychology works because colours don’t exist in a vacuum; they reference back to all of the experiences we’ve had with those colours. Gold is almost always used in an opulent context; after all, it’s a material only the wealthy could afford for years. Blue, conversely, is almost always as calming as the sea.


Bright, warm colours tend to stimulate, while cool colours tend to subdue; again, the associations are tangible. When you think of fire, you think red-hot, and when you think of cold, you think of icy-blue. The reason McDonald's has red and yellow in their logo may very well be that these colours tend to stimulate appetite and happiness; for this reason, it’s good advice to paint your kitchen a warm shade. Many banking companies, conversely, tend to use blue and green in their logos, perhaps to give the bank’s clients a sense of security. Scotiabank and CIBC in Canada are notable exceptions to this trend; my guess is that they use red in order to invoke Canadian identity.


Identity, then, is another core tenant of colour psychology. By using the colours of your country, province, or other affiliation, you signal to people who are likewise affiliated that you are a part of their group. Trust within groups tends to be powerful, so using, say, the colours of the Franco-Manitoban flag when your business is Franco-Manitoban can be a good way of signaling your identity.

The key, then, to colour psychology is to identify what feelings you want your document to evoke. You might want to exude power and formality, or friendliness, or trust, or any number of other combinations of emotions. Once you’ve figured out what you want people to feel when they look at your document, find the colours that are most associated with that feeling. Need help? Your Winnipeg printing company will be more than happy to review your ideas with you and make helpful suggestions!