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Applications of Color

Applications of Color


In this lesson, you will learn to identify psychological, physiological and cultural applications of color theory as well as applied uses.

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Visual Communications

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What's Covered

applications of color theory, as well as its applied uses. Specifically, this lesson will cover:

  1. Physiological & Psychological Effect of Color
  2. Cultural Impact of Colors
  3. Practical Uses of Color
  4. Colors & Trends
  5. Color Characteristics

1. Physiological & Psychological Effect of Color

Color has physiological and psychological effects that often determine their use around us; it affects us physically and mentally or emotionally.  Colors can make a statement, call forth a response, create an atmosphere, and much, much more. So it's good to know how color is being used in specific fashions every day to help dictate responses, trends, and behaviors. 

Example The color red is said to have a physiological effect in that it increases blood pressure, circulation, and pulse rate. It's also said to stimulate your sense of smell and improve appetite. On a psychological level, it's been a color associated with anger, yet also vitality, ambition, and awareness.

ExampleOn the other hand, blue has kind of the opposite effect, in that it slows down pulse rate, lowers blood pressure, and can lower body temperature and even deepen your breathing. On a psychological level, the color blue is linked with eliminating mental stress, helping you relax, providing you with mental clarity. But if it's too dark of a blue, then it can lead to depression.

Now, because color can have such a physical and mental impact, it's often used in chromotherapy, which is a complementary medical method of treating disease with color.

Term to Know

    • Chromotherapy
    • A complementary medical method of treating disease with color.

So it's oftentimes called color therapy and it's a therapeutic way to treat, again, physical and mental conditions. Think about what was mentioned earlier with color being able to raise or lower blood pressure. In chromotherapy, often colors are said to correspond and stimulate different areas in the body.

ExampleSo going back to red, it's said to stimulate adrenal glands and help increase stamina or help you feel more energetic, while blue can stimulate the pituitary gland, which then regulates bleeding patterns.

If that's still sounds too far-fetched, then just think about its therapeutic use for mental conditions, like stress or depression. Or think about a single mom who's been working all day and just has had a terrible, terrible day, picks up her kids late from school, then finally gets home and the first thing the kids do is put a hole in the wall. And on top of it, the walls are covered in this kind of fiery red. That color isn't going to help with blood pressure at this point. But maybe the color therapy could help with that stress. It might help lower blood pressure or put her in a calmer, more relaxed state, maybe.

2. Cultural Impact on Colors

Color is also used symbolically across cultures.

ExampleRed in the Western culture is symbolic of love and passion. You'll see it's use across Western holidays like Valentine's or Christmas. But in Eastern culture, red is symbolic of prosperity or good fortune and you'll see this color often used for New Year's and traditional weddings. In Western cultures we use white, because white is symbolic of purity and peace, but in Eastern cultures, white is symbolic of death, so you'll see it used in funerals. In Western culture the color of death and mourning is black and that's what we use for funerals.

3. Practical Uses of Color

Color has very practical uses, like wayfinding, which are visual systems which assist the viewer in finding a location or following a certain path within an environment.

Term to Know

    • Wayfinding
    • Visual systems which assist the viewer in finding following a certain path within an environment.

So take a look at the map of underground London.

Since zones are color-coded, the viewer is able to assess his or her current or desired location a lot quicker than if this map were entirely black. And this gets put to use in everyday public transport to help you orient yourself. You know you're in the orange lines, because the buildings are orange or the subways and trains and buses are orange. You can imagine this gets exponentially more difficult if you were to navigate around town or try to orient yourself if every zone and every line was just a singular color. So in addition to bus route name, numbers, color is also used in a very practical way to help you orient and find your way.

4. Colors & Trends

So color also plays a very big and important role for trends. So companies and organizations will try to predict the next annual trends in color and this is called color forecast.

Term to Know

    • Color Forecast
    • Annual trend predictions made by color marketing and various design trade organizations.

5. Color Characteristics

RED: So red, of course, for passion and hunger, as we mentioned. It has the power of attraction. And they use a lot extensively for restaurant logos, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, KFC.

ORANGE: So orange is meant to be this vibrant, playful, and very energetic color. So it's heavily used in industries where children are the focus. Think of the Nickelodeon logo.

YELLOW: Yellow is meant for happiness, warmth, and oftentimes caution. But yellow itself is kind of an overbearing, overpowering color, so it's kind of difficult to use. So you'll notice yellow gets typically used with other colors, especially when it comes to food chains, because you want to feel happy with the food that you're about to purchase. So again, McDonald's, Burger King, other fast food chains.

GREEN: Green, of course, natural, health, renewal. So you'll see this a lot with eco-friendly companies, recycling, agricultural. And oddly enough, you'll actually see this color in the British Petroleum logo, which is a bit weird.

BLUE: Blue, used quite often in corporate logos, because it's a professional color, associated with trust and authority and loyalty. So again, look at a bank logo, corporate company, Intel, IBM, even Facebook and Twitter.

PURPLE: So purples tend to be associated with royalty, elegance, and education and religion. So you'll see this used a lot commonly with religious institutes and oftentimes educational organizations.

PINK: Pink, of course, is representative of beauty. So you'll see this used a lot in beauty-related or fashion-related logos or companies dealing well with children accessories, of course, Barbie.

BROWN: Brown is meant to be this kind of reliable, earthly, kind of neutral color. And you'll see it commonly used for agriculture, construction, sometimes food-related products. But I can usually think of just coffee and chocolate.

WHITE: White, of course, we covered. It's this pure, clean color. And it's used quite often in logos and a lot of times to create negative space. So think about the Adobe logo. And of course, Apple loves using white in their products as well.

BLACK: Last we have black. It's authoritative. It's mysterious, bold, sophisticated. So you'll see this used quite often to create a sense of mystery in high-end products, like think of the black Mercedes or the really pricey car, that nice sleek black TV or high-end smartphones and electronics.


Well, that does it for this lesson on applications of color. This lesson looked at the physiological and psychological effects of color. You also learned about the cultural impacts of color and color's practical uses. Finally, you learned about the process of setting color trends and the various characteristics that different colors are associated with.

Keep up the learning and have a great day!


  • Wayfinding

    Visual systems which assist the viewer in finding following a certain path within an environment.

  • Chromotherapy

    A complementary medical method of treating disease with color.

  • Color Forecast

    Annual trend predictions made by color marketing and various design trade organizations.