Communicating in Colour: Insights on Three Colour Identities
by: Dana Mills, Communications Account Coordinator
At ZINC, we’re always thinking about colour and how best to use it in the materials we create. When communicating information, it’s key to choose colours that are appropriate to your message and goals. For example, using a colour that signals excitement or urgency might be right for a community event poster, but not for a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page that’s informing readers on a divisive topic.
It’s important to remember that colour can be used to do more than make something look good – the power of colour can be both emotional and practical. It can affect how people feel and influence behaviour, and it can also help materials stand out.
Recently, we shared #communicatingincolour highlights on our Twitter feed (@ZincStrategies), including the practical and emotional impacts of different colours. In case you missed the tweets, we’ve rounded up insights on three widely used colours and shared them below.
As one of the most well-liked colours, blue is known to evoke strong emotions. Blue is calming, attributed to its presence in nature (ocean, sky, rivers etc.), but it also conveys trustworthiness and communication. Turn your mind to the companies that use blue as their primary colour: think Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Would you trust them as much if they used a different colour?
In our day-to-day work with local government clients, we’ve noticed a similar thread. As a colour that signifies professionalism and dependability, blue is a key player in the visual identities of many municipalities.
The lesson here is simple: if you’re looking to comfort an audience or to show that you’re reliable, stick to blue.
On an emotional level, yellow’s effects are obvious: have you ever met a yellow sunshine or ‘smiley-face’ that didn’t make you cheerful?
Yellow is also highly functional because it’s the most visible colour from a distance. That’s why it’s used to signify caution all around the world (think street signs, traffic lights and ‘caution’ tape). But – too much yellow can be disorienting. Have you ever noticed the lack of yellow inside cars, boats or airplanes? This is because in high doses, yellow makes people dizzy.
If you want to be highly visible, or to promote optimism to your audience, then use yellow in your materials – but do so sparingly and strategically.
The colour red should be used with strong intention and purpose. It’s known to symbolize both danger and passion, making it a bold choice for sharing information or communicating a message. It’s especially powerful because it has a strong physical effect on our bodies – red insights liveliness, energy and movement.
Red also attracts attention – it is the second-most visible colour after yellow. Did you know that red light can travel the furthest through fog, rain and other poor weather conditions? That’s why red is used to convey “stop” on traffic lights and signs. It triggers a physical reaction, and the red signal can’t be missed.
If you’re looking to show confidence in an idea, to encourage action or to deliver a message with a punch, use the colour red.
Colour is a powerful communication tool. Whether you’re putting together a print ad, designing graphics for a website or creating eye-catching signage, think through your colour options and pick strategically to make the most of your message.
What do you ZINC about colour identities? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts/ideas.