Get colour coded – colour semiotics

July 16, 2014 | Branding, Colour | No Comments

Colour semiotics? It’s a fancy phrase, but what does it actually mean? Well, we’re talking about how a colour can express coded information that evokes emotions in the person who has seen it. Something that can be used with great effect in design to project certain values and create brand loyalty.

You see, people pay attention to colour maybe more than you think. It really can play an integral part in influencing how they make decisions – something that goes way beyond tastes, likes and dislikes. For example, when someone sees a red sign, they take it as a warning, think of danger and run for the hills (well, they might feel a little anxious).


The way this works is that colours connect with your senses, influence your mood and effect energy levels – think of how you feel when you are in a room which is painted in dark, sombre colours. By transmitting the power of the right colours through your design, you can make your target audience absorb certain messages better and trigger a strong brand connection before they’ve even used any of your products.

Shady dealings
Whether you’re creating your brand from scratch or deciding on a palette for a new piece of work, you need to be aware of the effects colours can have on people. Shades of colour can also reflect moods – for example, pale pink can make people calmer, whilst a bright, vibrant pink can have an energising effect. A successful brand knows 100% how to use colour semiotics to maximise the effect they want on a person.

Apple store staff wear blue t-shirts, which subconsciously makes a customer believe they can trust their advice on new technology.

But choosing the right colour isn’t just a case of looking through your Pantone book and deciding whether 371C olive green will relax people. It’s also about using colours that appeal to your target audience because they suggest certain values. If your target audience is ‘new mothers’, your colours need to project a feeling of safety and protection so the mothers feel comfortable using the brand with their new baby.

Pampers use aqua, which suggests it is a fresh, natural product, combined with yellow, which is positive and playful. The pastel shades suggest comfort and softness, perfect for a newborn baby.

Put in the research
With established brands, colour semiotics can create intuitive awareness, which really does open the gates to how a brand can be marketed. Just think of McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Nike and how imaginative their advertising and marketing is because their corporate colours have become so embedded in people’s minds. Those lucky blighters sometimes don’t even need to feature their name or logo on their creatives because their brand colours do all the work.

(Left image) There is no logo on this Coke advert but the brand is still instantly recognisable.
(Right image) You could just as easily remove the McDonalds logo and know whose ad this is.

Of course, to get to that level may take quite a while, but it can happen. Which is why it’s so important you take the time to research what colours will connect with your target audience and create the impact you want to make. Using colour semiotics at the very start can be absolutely vital to connecting with your audiences, building recognition and delivering the long-term success you want for your product or brand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Go ahead and get in touch, let's create something together Contact Us