Signage and psychology are closely linked together. Above all, you want the signs you put up for your business to encourage a positive attitude towards your brand and to entice your customers, new or existing, to make use of your services. Color theory and psychology are also closely linked, and looking at your designs for signage through the lens of color theory can actually tell you a lot about the impact that your signs have on people and ways that you could change them to improve the message you send. Here is a quick rundown on color theory and how to apply it to your business’s signs!
How are Colors Classified in Color Theory?
There are six main colors on the color wheel: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The three primary colors– red, blue, and yellow– cannot be created or formed by any other combination of colors, while the three secondary colors– green, orange, and purple– are formed by combining two of the primaries.
The colors can also be grouped into warm and cool: red, orange, and yellow are warm colors and green, blue, and purple are cool colors. Warm versus cool is especially important to be aware of when using color theory to design your signage. Warm colors tend to be associated with passion, energy, and excitement while cool colors are more associated with relaxation, peacefulness, and serenity. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule and each color usually does have some negative connotations as well as positive ones (for example, red being the color of anger or green being the color of illness) but as a rule of thumb, it’s good to keep in mind. If you’re designing signage for a spa, for example, cool colors are going to be your best friend!
What Are the Colors Associated With?
Each of the six basic colors on the color wheel has some things that it’s associated with. Here’s the general breakdown.
Red: Power, importance, excitement, anger, danger
Orange: Friendliness, positivity, energy, change
Yellow: Joy, clarity, optimism, caution
Green: Growth, nature, wealth, envy, sickness
Blue: Calmness, intelligence, trust, sadness
Purple: Royalty, creativity, imagination, magic
Different shades of a color can have different associations from their base. For instance, pink is a shade of red, but tends to be a lot more associated with love than red is. Generally, however, these basic associations will be very helpful to you in choosing which colors will best convey your brand image.
Selecting a Basic Color Scheme
A color scheme or color palette is just the specific colors and shades that you plan on using in your project. It can be as simple as two basic color selections or as complex as a wide variety of different shades, and it forms the basis for your whole design. In general, try to limit yourself to somewhere between three and eight colors in a color scheme, with four to five being the most ideal. Once you start putting the whole rainbow in there, you start to lose a sense of theme!
Choosing your color scheme is part message, part aesthetic. Let’s say, for example, you’re opening a new gym and designing your signage. The colors that will best support your message of strength, energy, and wellness will probably be warm colors in bright, vibrant shades. If you were designing the signs for a library, choosing cool colors and using more muted or subtle shades would provide a message of calmness and knowledge. From there, fleshing out the color scheme is just about choosing what looks good together.
Monochromatic color schemes are always a popular choice, in which you use varying shades of a single color. They’re simple, and they look cohesive and put together. However, they can lack some contrast, so you’ll want to make sure that none of your shades are too similar looking.
Analogous color schemes are made up of colors that appear next to each other on the color wheel, such as using red, orange, and yellow together. These color schemes are easy to work with and look detailed and visually pleasing without being too complicated, but you’ll probably want to avoid mixing warm and cool colors in most cases.
Complementary color schemes utilize colors that are directly across from each other on the color wheel and that have the most natural contrast. You’re probably already familiar with a popular complementary color scheme: the classic Christmas colors of red and green fit this bill perfectly! Because it’s so high contrast, this color scheme can get overwhelming if it isn’t done well, so a good way to approach a complementary color scheme is to pick one color as your dominant color and use shades of it more heavily, relying on the other one mostly for accents.
There are a lot of other different classifications of color schemes, including split complementary, triadic, and tetradic, but the three described above are the most basic and you’ll see them used effectively in a lot of different places. Once you’ve built your color palette, you can get into the real fun part of designing your new signs! With color theory as your tool, you’re sure to create signage that cements your brand image and helps to draw in new business.