Design debunking – color alone won’t move the needle


1. VP of Research & Innovation, HCD Research
2. Director of Behavioral Insights and User Experience, HCD Research


Color psychology is a popular marketing and design tool to impact consumers’ impressions of a brand and whether different colors and color combinations will drive consumer perceptions or purchases. Yet, overgeneralization of color and perception can be misleading, leading brands to underestimate the impact of individual experiences and product context. While green has long been associated with health and nature, a lime green logo may have a different impact on the consumer than a lime green drink or a lime green scarf, none of which may have anything to do with nature or health. Brands should consider context experience when choosing colors for their products.

When buying products, consumers first focus on visual appearance (on shelf, on screen, etc.). Visual cues are used in combination with other sensory characteristics to connect messaging to images, layouts, and design. Colors can be a primary draw, attracting a consumer’s attention and signaling different product attributes.


Color psychology is the study of how different hues can impact and shape human perception and behavior (1). How colors impact people can be dependent on their age, gender, and culture and can drive anything from emotional response to sensory perceptions and even the effectiveness of medications and placebos (2). In marketing, branding, and product design, color cues have been used to drive purchase and even stimulate hunger (3). The internet is full of lists and heuristics based on color psychology research, suggesting that specific colors have specific connotations.


However, the key to designing a successful visual branding strategy is not by assuming certain colors will elicit specific types of emotions (because they most likely will not). It is through understanding what the consumer is looking for in your pr ...