Colors have a big impact on us: How we feel, what we think about an object, a product or the whole world around us. What do you feel when you see a fresh green or a cool blue? Do you have memories and feelings that are connected to those colors? As most of you well know there are loads of color studies out there and some “facts” regarding color psychology – but we wanted to know for ourselves: Is the color in me the color in you?
For that we created the online experiment “True Colors” in which we asked people to write down their emotions towards certain colors. You can still try it out if you want, but the final evaluation’s already done – read on if you want to know what we’ve discovered!
Because we know TLDR; is a real thing we created a list of our key findings – if you want to know more about it you can find an explanation in more detail below. We even made a sheet with the tested colors and the most popular keywords on it which you can use for your own studies ;)
- Although we asked for emotions people tended to write down associated nomen
- Lots of people have positive feelings towards dark colors like black
- Likewise many people don’t feel positive about bright colors like yellow
- In general everybody feels different about a color and you can’t just measure everybody by the same yardstick
- You are awesome: We thought we’ll get a lot of inappropriate entries (scatological language and such) but people took our experiment seriously and we thank you for that
Are we unable to express our feelings?
The user was confronted with a color and we asked him to write down an emotion he associated with it. We even implemented an auto-complete function and a list of emotions to choose from to make it easier for the user. Nevertheless people tend to write down associated nomen like sea, berry, sky and so on. In retrospect we think that we could have done things differently by trying out other design approaches to optimize the experiment’s UX, so that it clarifies our intents. Maybe that way people would have written down emotions.
We are not used to scan ourselves and see how we feel when we encounter a color or something else.
When we discussed the findings in our team we couldn’t help but to think of another explanation for the lack of clear verbalisation of emotions. Maybe the users or we alltogether are not able to express our feelings properly even if we are asked to. We are not used to scan ourselves and see how we feel when we encounter a color or something else. Emotions are a quick and powerful way to judge situations to react the right way before the cognitive system has to evaluate every information in detail. Therefore, you have to be really mindful to be aware of your emotions and you have to have the communication skills to express those. We guess for most users our little experiment was probably just a quick stop by at their ride through the internet, so their emotional awareness might not have been as high enough to really think about their feelings rather than the associations we got in result. Again a proof of how hard it is to grab the users attention.
The Color in me is not the color in you
First of all we do not know if we see colors the same way – maybe green looks different to me than to you. Probably we’ll never find out how others see colors. I hate orange and really like black – I don’t know why I feel so negative about a bright, apparently lively color and positive about a darker, more serious one. Other people may love orange and feel refreshed or happy when they see it. There are many circumstances that can influence our perception of colors, like culture, media influences, parental education or the device the color is presented on. Maybe bright colors are not as favourable on the digital screens than dark colors. Furthermore it could be that you experienced something memorable and now associate it with a color from that moment. For example, maybe you had an accident on winter holiday and now you don’t like the color white (snow) anymore. Maybe you love the color of the ocean because you first met your significant other while bathing in Greece.
I don’t have a negative memory connected with the color orange, still I don’t like it – why’s that so? It could be epigenetic – which would mean that my grandmother or some other ancestor may had a super awful experience with that color and passed that on to me although we all know nothing about it consciously. Yeah, epigenetic really is a proven scientific thing.
The experiments key result – the users different perception of colors – really is what we’ve hoped for. We believe that there can’t be ONE way how people feel about colors. It differs between persons, situations, the presentation and context of the color and a lot more. Instead of relying on one color scheme for your project you could try different ones and ask your users for feedback so you can work towards a solution which fits best. Or: You could just be confident about your decision which colors to use because, like with most things in life, you won’t be able to please everyone.