The theory of colour has always fascinated me. Colour is the stuff of emotion, even of religion and magic. Not only our society but every society on earth today has a very large part of its communication driven by colour.

While basic literacy is on the increase, the quality of that literacy is falling in even the richest societies. We shall have to communicate with a large part of these societies, if we wish to communicate with them all, by visual rather then textual means. Colour is the most powerful of all visual tools ? and the most dangerous.

Here’s a beginners guide to colour and how different colours make us feel and act:



Firm. Constant. Proud. Self-contained.

Resists Change. Asserts self-esteem. Seeks recognition. Projects idealised self-image. Seeks longer and more useful life for self and others.


Impulsive. Great will to win. Competitive edge.

Urge to achievement and success. Seeks excitement. Seeks intense living. seeks rich experience. Craves action. Keenly productive initiative.


Sensuous. Agreeable. Sociable.

Seeks family security. Seeks company of own kind. Seeks certainty and contentment. Requires physical amenities. Values home comforts.


Insular. Uninvolved.

Conceals true personality. Tends to stand back and watch themselves go through the motions. Unresponsive to outside influence.


Calm. Ethical. Contented. Orderly.

Seeks to harmonise environment. Needs emotional harmony. Values tradition. Tries to minimise disturbance. Attempts to ensure smooth running of affairs.


Forward-looking. Seeks achievement and importance. Desires happiness.

Seeks change. Values the new, the developing and the modern. Restless in pursuit of ambition. Focused on future.


Impulsive vitality. Gentle surrender. Good compromiser.

Tries for a mystical union in which dreams and desires can be fulfilled. Seeks to charm and delight. Wants to fascinate associates, friends and family.


Stubborn. Inflexible.

No trouble saying ‘No!’. Rejects fate. Dissatisfied with current conditions. Feels nothing is as it should be. Like to revolt.

So that’s a little bit about colour and how it works from an emotional point of view. The theory of colour is a large and wonderful subject. There are many of books out there on the theory of colour so get to your local books store and learn more about colour.

No designer should be selecting a colour just because it looks ‘nice’. There should always be a reason for their choice and should support what is being said. Most importantly the colour choice should resonate with the target audience.

A note of caution: Colours can mean different things in different cultures so make sure you do your homework. The above is a generalisation.

You may also be interested in this blog all about colour spaces:

Source: Colour for Professional Communicators. Andr? Jute

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