Brad Pitt uttered these words in the movie Ocean’s Eleven as a response to George Clooney’s question, “Why do they always paint hallways that color?”  Colors are carefully selected in places that have a defined function or goal; perhaps in the casino’s instance, it was to relax the employees and guests.

From a website’s structure, to images, media, and content font, the colors used will subconsciously send a message to the reader.  And if you are wondering why many professional companies use the color blue, for instance, this post will shed some light.

The intention of this post is for you to understand basic concepts of color usage, and also why the Obu design team chooses colors depending on your business industry and current branding.  (While colors in some cultures may have different meanings, the following examples will be used under Western connotations)

Let’s start with RED.

Most of you are aware that red is a color of energy and power, hence the “red power tie” for business.  Red has been scientifically proven to lift blood pressure levels and the breathing rate.   Slathering red across the website of a newly formed HMO or plastic surgery practice is not the best idea, but what if you want your visitor to be a little upset?  What if you want them to take action and defend themselves?  Divorce lawyers, security companies, and the self defense industry…yea, you hear us.

Here are some other ways Red is well used:

  • Displaying “Breaking News” or a catastrophic event.
  • Calling attention (and sometimes action) as red signals a “STOP” or warning.
  • Used for a VIP or celebration-type of website.

BLUE is one of the most frequently used colors and is always a safe choice.

Blue conveys:

  • Conservativeness, but also loyalty and security.
  • The health insurance company is called Blue Shield, not “gray shield” and its for a reason.
  • Many also associate the color blue with clean and fresh, and a general openness.

BLACK is an excellent color to use in web design, as it produces no glare and is often associated with sophistication and style.  But black must be used carefully as a website that has too much black can project a “dark” image.

  • Elegance: Black tuxedo /  black Mercedes
  • Darkness: Batman (Dark Knight)
  • Death:  Funerals….and, nearly worldwide it is a color of evil, strife, or bad luck –  So be careful with the black!

According to retired CIA agent Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) in the 2000 movie Meet The Parents, “geniuses pick green.”  While no evidence could be found online to support the claim,  the color green is one of growth, healing, and fertility.  When used properly online, it is one of the most soothing colors to the human eye.  Other uses of  green are:

  • $$$
  • Safety (best with lots of white)
  • Environmental products

Yellow is a complicated color, and as you can see very difficult to read when used as text.  Typically when we see yellow as text it has black behind it, and it’s a sign on the highway warning that train tracks with freight cars are approaching.  With most websites today there are few reasons to use yellow as text. Yellow is considered unstable and spontaneous, and with a little research I’ll bet most Ferraris sold in the color yellow probably went to someone under the age of 30 who made their money too fast!

Orange strikes a wonderful balance between red and yellow, and has been known to stimulate mental activity and the oxygen supply to the brain.   When used with green, brown or other earth tones, orange can bring a symbol of stimulating life.  Use orange to gain and hold attention so users see:

  • Call-to-actions
  • Contact forms
  • Areas of a site you want immediately noticed.

White is a perfect color for the web.  Even though it produces some glare, white should frequently be used in your website.  Remember to use black only text, or dark gray is best as it reduces glare.  To newer designers, keep in mind that white naturally cleans up most web designs and makes them appear more professional.  White also promotes:

  • Cleanliness, simplicity and safety
  • Health, holistic healing, exercise and low-fat
  • Overall, white is wonderful…unless it’s on a tiger…and swimming in your pool!

Purple has been a favorite color of mine since I could say the word, and it still is.  It was the purple Starbust, Skittles, and other candies which were the most coveted (I gave the yellows and oranges away).   Purple is frequently considered a color of royalty, magic, and is rarely found in nature.  Careful when using purple in your site as its exotic-ness may subconsciously distract a user.

Okay, time to raid a co-worker’s candy jar…



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