The Wilson Concept | The Color Wheel
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The Color Wheel


26 Mar The Color Wheel


Color makes a difference.

I just recently watched a video where colorblind individuals were given lenses to help them see the full spectrum like they never knew. It’s enough to provoke more than a few tears (particularly when a father looks at his children’s full color drawings).

Branding is a very visual medium and involves the manipulation and coordination of color.

The Basics of Color

Let’s start at the basics of the color wheel.


Colors are divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary (they are a bit arbitrarily chosen but this is tradition).  The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. The secondary are green orange and purple. And the tertiary colors are orange-red, red-purple, purple-blue, teal, yellow-green, orange-yellow. As seen above, one can divide them into warm colors and cool colors.

Next, each of the colors can be diluted. If they are diluted with white, they are hues. If they are diluted with black, they are shades. And, finally, if they are diluted with grey, they are shades.

Here are a few kinds of color combinations:

Complimentary colors: colors opposite to each other on the color wheel (red & green, purple & yellow)

Analogous colors: three colors next to each other on the color when (purple, blue-purple, blue)

Triadic colors: three colors evenly spaced on the color wheel (teal, red-purple, yellow-orange)

Square colors: four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel (purple, teal, red-orange, & yellow)

There are many other color combinations and possibilities but these are a few basics to get your mind thinking to how colors can work together to create themes and identities.

Color Psychology

While color psychology might not be a universal field, it can be a good way to assess what emotions are involved with different colors and how they affect your perceptions. Below is a very basic list of associations you might have with different colors. When these different shades are in your brand, you have to consider that these thoughts will be in the viewer’s mind (even unconscious thoughts).

Here is a pretty straightforward chart from LifeHacker:


Additionally, one must remember that not only the colors but color combinations will affect one’s reaction. Yellow and black could be reminiscent of a road sign, a bumble bee, or even that overplayed Wiz Khalifa song. So it’s important to be wary of whatever shades, patterns, and combinations you are doing. This is not only essential for generating certain thoughts and emotions but also for not infringing on copyright!

Your Emotional Colorscape

While color psychology may give you some general guidelines on emotional response, it is not a “hit the nail on the head” kind of science. Firstly, the color associations are limited to the North American market (aka the USA and Canada, possibly the UK depending on the field) and that’s it. Different countries will have different preferences and associations. For example, according to Gregory Ciotti, when Joe Hallock collected men and women’s most and least favorite colors, no man cited purple as his favorite. However, in cultures that use color more liberally, such as in Italy or certain African and Asian societies, purple can be a pride. (Remember, purple was the color of the Roman Empire–what’s more manly and powerful than that?)

Color choices and emotions depend on personal experience, which can make them tricky when you’re trying to assert an idea to associate with your brand. That’s when it’s good to consider the most universal color associations that your market might gage. For example, if your market is primarily in healthcare for the older generations, it might be a good idea to find out what color associations were popular in the 50s and 60s that might give a positive ring of nostalgia (i.e. red, white, and blue is always a good place to start).

It comes down to knowing your market audience. Who are you reaching and why do you want to reach them? Color can help you reach further in the layers of the subconscious.

Watch Out Eating Those M&Ms

While we all may prefer different color choices (I personally have a preference for grey and green) and see that color can affect our moods, color also has a profound affect on how we react (and I’m not talking about Van Halen’s rider). Let’s take a bowl of M&Ms for instance.In the Journal of Consumer Research, Professor Brian Wansink of marketing and nutrition studies discovered that those who were given a variety of colored foods were likely to eat more. Moviegoers who were give 10 colors of M&Ms versus only 7 colors ate an astonishing 43% more. They concluded that it was not simply variety that encouraged people to eat more but perception of variety.

Color, therefore, has a strong effect on our actions and can be the difference between making your product disappear off the shelves or making the brand disappear entirely.


Brittany Burns

Content Manager


:: Connect ::

Look here for Valspar’s video on Color for the Colorblind

For a more in-depth color psychology chart, go to 5 Tips to Choose the Right Color Scheme for Your Website

Look at the associations between color branding and business strategy with Color Psychology in Marketing

For the more psychological end of it, read up on Gregory Ciotti’s perspective

For more on how color affects how much people eat, click here

To see Joe Hallock’s full research, check out the Colour Assignment

If you really needed to hear it, here’s where you can listen to that overplayed Wiz Khalifa song