The World of Colors - Meaning in Design 1

The World Of Colors - The Meaning Of Colors In Design

Colors play an important role in design. They can not only convey feelings such as happiness or sadness, but can also direct our attention or arouse emotions. But what do colors really mean? And how much do they influence our everyday life as designers?

Already in 2010 Achim Schaffrinna gave some thought to the topic in his specialist blog “Design Tagebuch” and described in detail the significance of colors for branding. There are also studies that show that correctly used colors increase the recognition value of a brand/company by 80 percent. In addition, colors in advertising influence the buying decisions of many customers: According to statistics, in around 85 percent of cases, the color tone is decisive for whether a product is purchased or not.

In addition, there are many other reasons why it is important as a designer to understand the extent to which colors influence us as a person, a company or a product. With this article we want to deal with the three color variations as well as the meaning of red, yellow or blue.

Classification of colors into warm, cold and neutral colors

For the first time ever, we all thought about colors in art classes at primary school. We have learned that there is a color wheel, which consists of the basic colors red, blue and yellow. Regardless of whether in the variant of Newton (1700), Boutet (1708) or Johannes Itten (1961), the other colors (secondary and tertiary colors) mix together in a circle from the three primary colors. The resulting colors can then be divided into two or three different areas: the warm, the cool and the neutral color areas.

Warm colors stand for happiness, optimism and energy

Red, orange and yellow lie next to each other in the color circle and belong to the warm colors. In color theory, warm colors stand for happiness and optimism and often evoke positive feelings. For Gigi Hadid, for example, the color yellow stands for energy and power, although it can also be somewhat irritating for the human eye. Red, on the other hand, is said to increase your appetite, which is why fast food restaurants like McDonald's like to use this combination. But let's take a closer look at the meaning of warm colors:


Red is the warmest of all colors - and its meaning could not be more contradictory in many respects. While red stands on the one hand for warmth, love and passion and makes our heart rate beat faster, the color is often associated with anger, anger or danger.

As a designer, this means that the color red is ideally suited to attracting the viewer's attention. But be careful: red is also the color of the outbursts of feeling, so that destructive aggressions can occur. It is not without reason that viewers have literally attacked the canvases put up by the artist Barnett Newman. The same goes for the bullfighting in Spain, where the animals are irritated by the toreros with red cloths. 


Orange stands for joy, liveliness and is often associated with vitality and happiness. Just like the color red, orange is a very vivid color, but it doesn't seem quite so intrusive. Orange is the color of the Caribbean, the Samba and the cheerful open encounter. Especially in India or Asia, the color stands for the highest level of human enlightenment - which explains why Buddhist monks or the Dalai Lama, for example, always show up in orange.

In design, the color orange is often used for call-to-action elements that lead to the purchase of a product or the ordering of a service/subscription.


“Yellow is the color that makes me smile after waking up”, Gigi Hadid told a group of reporters at the presentation of her new fashion cooperation in New York. No wonder, then, that we associate yellow with light, sun and lightness, while yellow in the Middle Ages was also seen as a color of envy and a disgrace to discriminated groups.

The design is similarly ambivalent: While the color yellow is ideally suited to accentuate and convey an optimistic, cheerful feeling to the viewer, problems can arise in product design. For example, too much yellow produces unattractive reflections in certain lighting conditions, which can irritate the eyes of some people. Accordingly, yellow should be used sparingly in the design.

Cool colors are usually soothing and calming

In contrast to the warm colors, which stand for happiness and optimism, the cool colors have a calming and soothing effect. Cool colors include the colors green, blue and purple. For example, while we put an evergreen Christmas tree as a symbol of hope in the living room every year in winter, companies use the cool colors to catapult health, beauty or safety aspects into the foreground.


Green stands for health, relaxation and wealth. As the color of the middle/life, green is the most pleasant color for the human eye and is often associated with spring, fertile meadows, fields or forests. Accordingly, unlike the stimulating effect of red, green has a calming and harmonizing effect. This is also the reason why technical companies in particular rely on the color green.

If it is a matter of controversial topics, it is advisable to use the color green in the design, for example, to create the effect of relaxation and balance for the viewer. Well-known brands that rely entirely on the color green are BP, Starbucks, John Deere or Land Rover.


Blue evokes the feeling of peace, harmony and satisfaction, as well as security and trust. So it's no wonder that blue, at 28 percent, is one of the most widely used colors - according to Forbes's 100 most influential brands in the world. Even so, blue is one of the most popular colors of humans, as the body develops rest-producing hormones when looking at it.

Dark blue is particularly popular in the area of corporate design, as the color symbolizes a professional impression depending on the intensity. NIVEA is one of the best-known brands that exclusively use the color blue. Other good examples include social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which use lighter shades of blue.


Purple is a mediating color between red and blue. It is the color of power, but also of passion and immorality. Purple is often associated with creativity, royalty and wealth, and the color stimulates our imagination. Lila is often used when the viewer should be motivated to put unusual ideas into practice.

Often the color purple is used in design to calm the viewer. This is also the reason why Lila is often used in packaging design for cosmetic products. Furthermore, it is well known that a dark purple makes an existing design look even more luxurious or even wealthy, while a lighter purple stands above all for mysterious romanticism.

Neutral colors are ideal as background colors

In addition to black and grey, neutral colors also include white. These colors can be used very well in design and, with 28 percent of the colors used, is one of the most frequently used colors. No wonder, for example, if you associate the color grey in combination with certain colors with a certain modernity. In addition, some of the world's best-known brands used gray in their logo, corporate design and branding - above all Apple, Audi, Wikipedia and Mercedes-Benz.

It can therefore be stated that all neutral colors in the design are very well suited as background colors. If lighter colors are used in the foreground, black, grey or white are particularly suitable. For textures, it is better to choose light brown or brown as the background color.