One of the most important decisions you will make when designing your commercial space is choosing the color scheme for your business. This is because color defines the mood and ambiance of your space and strongly influences the way your customers behave. In fact, the psychology of color is a mandatory field of study for any designer eager to create interiors that resonate with people, and one you should get familiar with when taking upon designing your brand. 

The effect that colors have on the human mind goes back to the very wiring of our ancestral brains, and the way we used the chromatic information to live in the world. For instance, green, the color of the woods, is instinctively associated with safety, health and vigor. Red, the hue of the much sought berries, still stimulates the appetite. Yellow is a solar color that makes people feel happy, vibrant and animated. However, colors also bring to mind historical associations, such as purple as the color of the aristocratic class, or black as a simbol of death. 

When creating your brand and allowing it to infuse your interior space, you need to be aware of how the human mind reacts to color, what are the elements that define a certain hue and how to combine them to obtain the right visual effect and the expected reaction from your customers. While a professional designer is well equipped to understand how to choose and use a chromatic scheme for your benefit, here is a short introduction to the psychology of color and how designers go about selecting the right hues. 

Choosing colors from textile samples and paint chips


The way that people react to different colors and how that translates into interior design options should dictate your color selection. So what is the feeling evoked by each color, and what kind of ambiance it creates?

Red is a strong, energetic color suitable for interiors with a dynamic and lively vibe. The very definition of passion and courage, it fits well into a bold color scheme that stimulates the brain and senses. However, it is usually best used in small doses, such as in accent walls or pieces of furniture, so that it doesn’t become overpowering and visually exhausting. When used wrong, it can in fact have an aggressive vibe. 

Yellow is a happy, sunny hue that has an uplifting and reinvigorating effect. Being the color associated with light, it has the same psychological effect that you might expect from a bright summer morning. It is an ideal choice for spaces that don’t benefit from too much natural light and for an interior that you want to infuse with a sense of optimism and well-being.

Blue is a universally liked color with a strong calming effect. It also suggests confidence and trust, so it is a perfect choice for both offices and interiors that are designed for relaxation. It is important, however, to not allow it to become cold and impersonal, since it has this tendency.

Example of using color psychology in relaxing blue office design

WestPac Wealth Partners office design in San Diego by Mindful Design Consulting

Orange comes from combining red and yellow, and borrows from the qualities of both. Friendly, energetic and stimulating, it suits well spaces designed for social encounters, creativity and action. It is not the right color if what you are looking for is a space that calls for calm and introspection, and is often best used as an accent color.  

Green, like blue, has a strong calming effect, mostly due to the fact that humans insyinctively associate it with the presence of shelter and food. Obtained by mixing blue and yellow, it suggests safety and abundance. It is often used to indicate an interest in all things natural, and to impart a sense of freshness to a space.

Purple, whose primary-color parents are red and blue, is the color historically associated with royalty, wealth and pomp. It is also seen as a spiritual color, able to stimulate the creative and mystical mind. Purple can look rich, elegant and sophisticated, but it runs the risk of suggesting loneliness and sorrow when used in high doses. 

Black is a classic choice that looks elegant, sophisticated and mysterious. However, it needs the right dosage in order to avoid turning into a ghastly, morbid or Halloween-like chromatic addition. When combined with white, it is particularly effective in creating classic, clean-looking interiors that appeal to most.

White is the simplest chromatic option that spells cleanliness and purity. It is ideal for making a space look larger and for creating a minimalist interior. Its fresh look appeals to the eye, but color psychology tells us that too much white can become boring and evoke the depressing hospital look. 

Smart use of the psychology of color in modern black-and-white restaurant

Sim Sim Shawarma restaurant interior design by Mindful Design Consulting

Shades, Light and Saturation

Your choices are much more complex, however, than choosing a theoretical color: Each color has an overwhelming number of variations, depending on its shade, saturation, and the way it reflects light. All of these attributes reflect upon color psychology.

While the interior design terminology is more complicated, color shades are generally understood by the layman to be different variations of the same color, obtained by mixing it with white or black. This makes it either stronger or dilutes it into a pastel. These variations change the mood of the hue: Pastel colors are delicate and relaxing, and open up the space. By contrast, darker shades are richer and deeper and need to be accompanied by lighter colors to avoid the risk of ovewhelming the interior. The changes can be significant. For instance, a light red that verges on pink is feminine, fun, soft and reassuring, while a darker red makes a space look more intimate and introspective.

The amount of light that a certain color has gives you another hint on how to choose and mix colors for the maximum effect. Lighter colors have obviously more light, while darker colors have less. Combining colors from the two categories gives you the best chance to create a look that is pleasant to the eye.

Finally, saturation defines the intensity of a color. The more intense the color, the more daring it is , and the more you need to pair it with less saturated colors in order to lighten it up. Richer colors make for an eye-catching design and give character to a space. However, according to color psychology, they need to be used wisely. For instance, while yellow is a cheerful hue, a brighter and more intense yellow may become a visual nuisance, distracting and disturbing. 

Cafe design in refreshing bright colors

The 20 Boba Tea shop design by Mindful Design Consulting

Choosing a Color Scheme

Understanding all these aspects of the psychology of color, how do you go about selecting your chromatic scheme? First, based on its specific attributes, you can go for just one color and mix it with different shades of the same color for more variation. 

For a more complex look, however, the color wheel is a useful tool. It shows the 3 primary (red, yellow and blue), 3 secondary (orange, green and purple), and 6 tertiary colors (red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet), arranged in a circle that reflects their relationship to one another. As a reminder, primary colors are those that cannot be obtained by mixing other colors and that are the source of all other hues. Secondary colors are created by mixing two of the primary ones, while tertiary colors are the result of mixing primary and secondary ones, such as yellow-green or red-violet.

One of your best options in creating your chromatic scheme is to choose two complementary colors, which means two colors from oposite ends on the color wheel, such as red and green, yellow and purple, or orange and blue. The powerful contrast makes the combination visually striking, but it needs the calming effect of neutrals to avoid being overpowering. A variation of this method is to choose one color and the neigboring hues of the opposite one, which makes the design more nuanced and interesting, yet allows it to retain the power of contrast.

You can also mix neigboring colors such as red, red-orange and red-violet. This is a good option when you want to create either a warm or a cold color scheme, and need to vary your colors without affecting the general mood and warmth of the space.

Use of complementary colors in dessert store design

Can’t Top This boba tea and frozen yogurt store design by Mindful Design Consulting

If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.

Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.

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