Colours and Emotions: How Design Influences Feelings and Reactions

Post by
William Griffiths
Colours and Emotions: How Design Influences Feelings and Reactions

Colours and Emotions: How Design Influences Feelings and Reactions

Many of us pass off colours as just being a part of our day-to-day lives, and while that may be true to an extent, the picture is actually much bigger than that. Throughout the course of history, a whole lot of research has been done in the name of understanding the way in which colours can guide us and shape our emotions - which, when you think about it, is no small feat.

Every single design and every small nuisance plays a role in taking you from one emotion to the other. Sure, there are plenty of intricacies involved in that ideology, and it’s all about cracking the code. Does age play a role in how you look at yellow? Yes. Will different cultural experiences change the way in which green presents itself? Of course.

Today, our aim is to run through a handful of bullet points concerning the basics of colours and how they generate different emotions. From the weather we feel on our skin to the smiles that are put on our faces, we just want to dig a little deeper into this sub-genre of the design world and see what we end up with.

Warm colours

The feeling of being ‘warm’ can, strangely enough, be divided up into so many different meanings. On a base level, it can relate to the physical feeling of being hot, but it’s really so much more than that. It can mean feeling ferocious, dangerous, and perhaps even a bit angry - and that kind of variety is just the tip of the iceberg.

Typically, there are three colours that come to mind when you think of the word ‘warm’, and those colours are red, orange and yellow. From the sunshine to a gorgeous glass of mulled wine to the calming influence of the desert, one simple flick of a switch can change your entire perspective. In a lot of ways, it’s really quite beautiful to consider how much three colours alone can brighten up your mood.

Cool colours

Being ‘cool’ can obviously translate to you feeling quite cold, but we think ‘cool colours’ also cover two completely different ends of the debate. There’s the idea that the cold is intimidating and represents the unknown, and if that manifests in your mind, it can lead to a complex relationship between you and these colours. Then again, it’s also quite soothing, especially when you reach the winter, and all you want is to be nice and cosy.

Blue and purple are the two primary colours that come to mind as being ‘cool’, but you could also throw green into the mix too. They help you to feel refreshed and ready for the challenges that life throws at you, and even though that may sound a bit silly, we’d argue that’s one of the key components behind the population’s love of things like the ocean.

The correlation between colours and emotions

Just about everyone on the planet (that we know of) experiences a range of different emotions every single day. A lot of the time, it stems from some kind of event, conversation or occasion that leads us down the path of a particular feeling. Every now and then, though, it can come down to nothing more than visualisation, which is one of the most powerful sensations of them all.

When we’re lying in bed at night and staring up at the ceiling, we aren’t looking at any specific item or colour - and yet, a thousand and one thoughts can go racing through our mind. On the flip side, light pink or orange could take us all the way back to days that we’d previously forgotten and then some.

Through experiments and research in the 1660s, Isaac Newton discovered the impact that light has on colours and how they present themselves. Now, in the present day, the level of exploration has only gotten greater as we pursue even more answers to the questions we have on colour theory.

Here, our intention is simple: list some of the everyday emotions we all feel, and understand the colours that influence them.


Happiness is a drug that money can’t buy, and it’s something we all strive to have on a consistent basis. It’s near enough impossible to be happy all of the time, and we do all need a reality check every so often, but for the most part, colours that make us happy are pretty widespread - and they cover a lot of ground on your average colour wheel.

One of the great things about this section is, as we’ve just noted, there are a lot of contenders when deciding what exactly the happiest colour is. Yellow, orange, pink, peach, lilac, you name it, and they’ll probably cheer you up on some level. It’s all about seeing the good in life, and although that may seem cheesy, it’s a mindset that holds up in colour psychology.


One of the greatest parts of our society these days is that we’re all learning to talk a little bit more. Not so long ago, it was perceived as far more beneficial to simply bury our feelings in an attempt to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Thankfully, most of us have seen the light and realised that it’s okay to admit when you’re feeling a bit sad.

Blue is the colour that a lot of folks would tend to put into this category, but we actually disagree. A darker blue would certainly make sense alongside beige, brown and, in particular, grey. A grey sky represents the change of the weather to something slightly darker, and pathetic fallacy is a concept that has been confirmed to be pretty accurate many times over the years.


Whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps, it can be difficult to turn things around in the blink of an eye. It takes time and effort, but every so often, one small gesture, image or memory can light you up like a Christmas tree. When you are energised, the entire atmosphere around you can change, and it can be pretty immediate, all things considered.

It’s time to get up and go, and when you’re trying to get energised, you’ve got to be as flamboyant as possible in order to get to your end goal. Bright red, neon green, turquoise, emerald green, purple - there’s a lot going on here, but rightfully so. The bigger and the louder the colours are, the more likely it is to do the trick.


An angry colour palette is going to take us on a one-way trip to being in a bad mood, and that much just goes without saying. In fact, we’d actually say this is the easiest emotion to be triggered by colours, if only because of how common it is to make that link. If you don’t believe us in that stereotype, go back and watch the movie ‘Inside Out’. Trust us, you’ll get it.

The primary colour that represents anger is, of course, red, and that goes for every darker variation of it, too. We’ve all heard the term white-hot rage, but really, red is the one colour that fits the bill. When the blood rushes to our faces and we feel like unleashing, this is the colour we go visually - and it’s what we all feel deep down inside.


Take a second, breathe, and look at the situation objectively. On the face of it, this shouldn’t be a particularly difficult thing to do, and yet it is. That’s why, in the age of protecting our mental health, there are more ways than ever in which we try to stay calm. It’s lucrative from the business side of things, too, because companies know just how much anxiety can get in the way of everything.

Soft, delicate, gentle. These are the kinds of attributes we’re looking for in colours that intend to calm us down, and there are more than a few we can think of. Baby blue, mint green, lilac, and even white can add a certain degree of serenity to just about any situation. Do you want to enter a zen feeling? This is the way to do it.

Understanding colour psychology

Within the field of psychology, there has been extensive research conducted in the name of really understanding how colours influence and impact our lives. The basic idea is that our brains are wired to respond to and understand colours in certain ways, which is why we tend to subconsciously associate them with so many memories and feelings as the years go by.

There are perceptual responses we have in our body and mind that don’t go away overnight. Sure, we’ve gone through several examples of how and why mainstream colours can create different reactions for us all, but it’s not always so straightforward. From the colour of a band’s logo you really love to a memory of losing someone on a day you saw a bright rainbow in the sky. These things can trigger us, and it’s important to recognise that.

Some studies have shown that the colour red can lead to increased heart rate - whereas, on the completely opposite end of the spectrum, the colour purple may be something you associate with the world of magic and wizardry. It may seem like there is a right and wrong answer, but as is the case with so many things in life, it isn’t quite so black and white.

Need help with colours in graphic design? We’re here for you!

At the heart of this article is a very clear message: colours aren’t as simple as they may seem. Yes, there are many instances in which your instincts dictate the state of play above anything else, but that’s not always true. Sometimes, when you take a step back and really analyse the process, you come to learn that everything is linked in one way or another.

It sounds quite spiritual, and perhaps it is, but it’s also scientific. There are so many theories out there regarding colour that give us a glimpse into what it means for a piece to have a purpose. Sure, there doesn’t always have to be some deep, heartfelt meaning, but it definitely adds to the allure - and we hope that’s where we come into the conversation.

Here at Hatchly, our goal is to help you. With our committed team of professionals, alongside a fantastic unlimited graphic design platform, we have the tools necessary to ensure your company or business receives the best possible assistance in this field.

If you’d be interested in learning more, feel free to get in touch!

Read also:

William Griffiths
Founder & Creative Director

Want to learn more?
Let's have a chat about how we can help you.

⚡️ Limited Time offer: Use code "HATCHLY10" for 10% off your First Quarter. Book a Demo now⚡️