Blog: June 2017

The psychology of colour
By Gerard McGuickin for LZF wood veneer lighting
Our world is ablaze with colour and colours provide the bedrock and building blocks of our emotions: think about ‘seeing red’ (angry), ‘feeling blue’ (sad), and being ‘in the pink’ (healthy). Both consciously and unconsciously colour is integral to how we feel and how we view the world.
When we're very young we're taught about the rules and foundations of colour: how mixing equal amounts of the three primary colours—red, blue and yellow—will produce three secondary colours—orange, purple and green. We learn about warm colours, cold colours and colour combinations, depicted on a colour wheel.
As we grow we identify colours that please us and those we want to avoid. We start to understand the many nuances of colour and how colour affects us. We recognise the perceived meaning of colour in clothing: the authority of black, the steadfastness of brown, the discipline of blue and the power of red. We see the influence of colours in action: we stop at a red traffic light; environmental groups are termed green; and for lots of us yellow doesn't just mean daffodils...the ‘yellow (golden) arches’ of a certain fast food behemoth lure us in.

When unpicking the psychological aspects of colours, we tend to find dissimilar traits. For example:

Red is a physical and visceral colour: one whose properties include strength and stimulation, fire and passion, energy and warmth. But too much red can be too bold and overbearing. Red is the colour we see first and it's used to convey caution and danger.
Blue is a strong and emotive colour. Regarded as an intellectual colour, blue tends to affect us mentally as opposed to physically. A serene and calming colour, blue tones can stimulate thought and promote concentration. But blue is also used to convey coolness and aloofness as well as to distinguish boys from girls.
Yellow is an emotional colour that buoys mood and temperament; it is optimistic, outgoing, friendly and creative. A strong colour, yellow should be used sparingly: too much yellow can give rise to fear and anxiety.
Green is a mix of blue (intellectual) and yellow (emotional), and represents balance. A restful colour, green is easy on the eye, it's the colour we associate with nature and it promotes a sense of harmony and reassurance.
Pink has positive virtues, from feeling rosy to reaching the pink of condition. But of course while pink is often used to define femininity, it was once seen as a masculine colour. Pink may stink to those who rail against gender stereotypes but pink is embraced as a neutral hue and is associated with balance. 
Grey is another neutral colour that's come back into fashion, having previously been seen as a dull miserable colour best left for school trousers. But there are many shades of grey and greys that tend towards the green and blue provide a sense of calm, of restrained elegance with a solid grounding. And as fans of Farrow & Ball paint will concur, a warm grey can alleviate tension and anxiety.
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