Sabeen Malik | January 29, 2019
Pablo Picasso once said, “Color, like features, follows the change of emotion.” Humans feel joy, and the mouth lifts in a smile; so it is with color, someone feels joy and chooses to wear their bright red shirt. Used in artistic expression and marketing, color stirs up many emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, even hunger. The effects of color on the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of someone are extraordinary. But the question is, how does this happen? Why do humans associate colors with different emotions and use those ideas in their everyday lives?
Colors give off light, and when the light falls on the retina, the wavelengths are converted into electrical impulses that are then passed on to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which governs our hormones. When color signals trigger the hypothalamus, we may feel sad when we look at blue or agitated when we look at red. Each color signal leaves its impact. The human response to color depends not just on our associations based on where we live and our culture, but on the brain’s response to light.
Color psychology and the science behind how colors are related to our brain is purposely used in marketing for restaurants, stores, etc. Red, orange, black, and blue attract impulse shoppers. Navy blue and teal attract shoppers on a budget. Pink, sky blue, and rose attract more traditional shoppers (Color Psychology).
The use of color can also be innovative. Apple, for example, brought color into a marketplace where it had not been used before. According to the Institute of Color Research, “By introducing the iMacs in blue, purple, and orange, Apple was the first to say, ‘It doesn't have to be beige.” Consider the success of McDonald’s, with its yellow arches on a red background. It’s widely claimed by many customers that red is the most appetizing color (Medium). One reason for this is its ability to increase one’s heart rate and therefore to kick-start digestion. On the other end of the spectrum, blue does the opposite of this, and instead makes a person lose their appetite.
Color alone has a lot of power and influence; it can sway our thinking or our course of action. Like Picasso said, colors follow the change in emotions, but it’s also evident that emotions follow the change in color.