How we understand colours can be analysed scientifically. People are physically, psychologically, and socially influenced by colour. Colour has been found to have connections to health and it can help set the mood through which your designs are seen. Colour communicates meaning, so we need to be conscious of the meaning we’re conveying when we choose to use one colour over another. It’s not that colours themselves have specific meaning, but we have culturally assigned meanings to them.
While some colour symbolism exists globally (red as the colour of a stop sign, yellow for caution), colour symbolism tends to be more common within a given culture than across different cultures – for example, white is used for weddings in Western cultures and for funerals in Eastern cultures.
Colour combinations tend to evoke certain reactions, based on cultural or personal experience. Understanding these experiences will help you combine colours to tell a story. That is what good colour theory can give you: designs that tell a story.
Red is a challenging subject! In the West: hot, passionate and demanding attention. In the East: good fortune, wealth and purity. It is also a tricky colour to use effectively in a design because of its strength and vibrancy. Red is often used as an accent colour and to draw the attention. When darkened to wine red or burgundy, it has a classier feel, especially when coupled with warm oranges and golden yellows. Lighten it up and you get pink.
Blue is a strong colour. Associated with a calm and soothing feeling, when darkened to navy it can also convey traditional values. Blue works well with white, and has a wide range of tones which also work well with a large variety of colour combinations. It can be used to elicit a feeling of trust when combined with grey. Modern palettes can be created by adding lime green or a calming lilac.