X82 // Design Elements // Color Fundamentals
Mood and Symbolism
Color affects mood and behavior. It can change how we perceive a product
or company and it can evoke atmosphere and convey symbolism. As much
as 80 percent of our sensatory perception is determined by sight, so what
we see is paramount to our understanding of the world around us. Given
the importance of sight and the prevalence of color in the natural world, it is
not surprising that humans have come to ascribe meaning to particular hues
and color relationships.
SBright red and army green are combined with texture and
visual content to convey a slightly sinister mood.
Design: Ames Bros, Seattle
Chapter 3 // Meaning and Emotion //83
If color can alter our ability to do
simple tasks, it’s not surprising that
it can be used both to affect and
to imply mood. In many cases, the
mood or atmosphere suggested
by color feeds into preexisting as-
sociations. The symbolism that is
ascribed to colors may be more a
product of continual reinforcement
than it is an intrinsic attribute of a
particular hue. Designers looking to
successfully use color in projects
should use pairings that convey
the tone and feeling of the content
before a viewer is able to compre-
hend the message. In this way, a
color or combination of hues can
foreshadow the theme or nature of
the message.
Researchers have found that the
presence of color can positively
affect our behavior. Dr. Carlo
Raimudo, codirector of the School
of Color and Design in Sydney,
Australia, found that subjects in a
colored room who were asked to
perform basic tasks had lower levels
of anxiety and lower heart rate and
blood pressure than those who
did the same tasks in a gray room.
Dr. Raimudo suggests that add-
ing color to our environment can
enhance our ability to engage in
problem-solving activities. Color’s
ability to improve productivity and
mood may account for why a large
number of design offices use color
prominently in their décor.
SThe combination of an illustration dominated
by the color pink and the pink used for the text
immediately conveys that the content on this
page is fresh and young.
Design: Seitaro Yamazaki (Macla, Inc.), Tokyo
SCreating colored backgrounds is an excellent way to make a product seem
special and unique. In these advertisements, alternating warm and cool color
palettes are combined with imagery to convey mood and reference sophistication
and quality. Design: The O Group, New York City

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