Color TheoryRed : From Love to Murder

Red : From Love to Murder

As the Creative Director at Gaslight Creative, I am often called upon to determine a brand palette for a new business. As colors are narrowed down and saturations are pondered upon, I often leave our clients surprised at how many variations of one color there are and how simply adjusting a hue can be a gamechanger. There are so many themes to discuss around the idea of color it would be best to start at the beginning with the oldest identified color in the book: Red.

In fact, red is so old, that in some languages (like Latin) the word for “colored” and “red” is actually the same word. It was one of the first colors used in prehistoric cave art. Currently, there are nearly 500 shades of red that have been coded.

“red is so old, that in some languages (like Latin) the word for “colored” and “red” is actually the same word.”

As designers, color is used as a tool for communication. In order to explore the depth of emotions red evokes, it is important to examine the psychology behind this fiery hue – from love to murder.

So how do we use red?

The color red has more emotional associations than any other color. Let’s start with the lighter spectrum of red which is pink. There are jail cells around the world painted pink to calm aggressive prisoners. Although this may feel humiliating for the inmates, pink is a soothing color and can invoke memories of nurture. Sometimes spending a few hours in a pink room can even encourage serenity and sleepiness.

As we move across the spectrum of red the psychology shifts. For example, bright red might be an appropriate color to wear when you are heading into a high pressure meeting where you need to exude confidence.

A true middle of the spectrum red can capture attention and trigger action. How many times have we unintentionally clicked on a Facebook video because the LIVE button was red?

When warmer colors are added to the mix you might feel hungry as red attracts attention and speeds up the body’s blood flow. Ultimately this increases your metabolism and drives you to grab for that snack.

When we include more cool tones to red we inspire strong feelings of passion and love. If you go darker by adding purple, burgundy comes into play, indicating power and sophistication.

As we venture into the negative emotions of red, we find ourselves using blood tones which can vary based upon the blood’s exposure to oxygen. We might use these various shades when designing subjects of more serious nature. Filmmakers tend to use red in scenes to let the viewers know that something important is about to happen. So the next time you watch a horror movie take a look at the types of reds that are used to show aggression, violence and anger (perhaps even murder).

It’s important to understand the effect colors have on the human psyche as you determine your brand’s color palette and how subtle shifts to the tones can push a color into a whole other meaning. Now the next time you see red, stop and think about your emotional response and where that red falls on the spectrum between love and murder.

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