The Fundamentals of Color Psychology in Product Design

Updated 3 weeks ago
Lindsay Vine
November 11, 2021
6 min read

When scientists talk about the visible light spectrum, they’re referring to our ability to differentiate colors subjectively. Color psychology in product design uses our subjectivity when perceiving color to create positive, subconscious responses to an item. 

The best use of color traces back through millennia of human civilizations. In On Colors, a text written in ancient Greece, people discovered that black isn’t a color but instead signifies the absence of light. More than 1500 years later, Isaac Newton conducted the first scientific studies on color and created the foundation for how we classify, group, and understand the visible light spectrum in his book Optiks

Newton defined colors into three groups:

  • Primary colors – Red, yellow, and blue
  • Secondary colors – A mixture between different primary colors
  • Intermediate colors – Combining primary and secondary colors

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was the first to state that our subjective experience created by color may differ based on our psychology. 

Modern product designers now have a wealth of information available when making decisions about an item’s color scheme to help evoke a psychological response in consumers. With so many considerations involved in soliciting the perfect response from customers for a product, this blog will cover everything you need to know about color psychology in products. 

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Why is Color Psychology in Product Design Important?

Associating color with emotions is second nature to consumers. It’s why stop signs are red and we use phrases like “feeling blue.” Just altering the hue or shade of a color can alter the perception of an item in the subjective mind. Most consumers create associations between specific colors and big brands – and it’s not by accident. 

Consider the common emotional responses to colors below and the brands that use them:

  • Yellow for optimism and warmth – Used by brands like DHL, Subway, National Geographic, and McDonald’s
  • Blue for trust and strength – The common color in logos for IBM, Dell, HP, WordPress, and Pfizer
  • Red for excitement and youthfulness – The primary color for CNN, Coca-Cola, Netflix, Toyota, and Virgin

Companies that want to create positive associations with their products need to identify the unique position they want when choosing their primary color. However, these aren’t simple rules that you can adopt for all your product designs. Remember that the color will create an immediate impression on the user, and there are additional color considerations that influence the psychology of consumers.

1. Differences in Color Perception by Gender

People of different genders will experience colors differently on average. On preference alone, there are major differences in what men and women choose as their favorite color. Research shows that women also have a larger color vocabulary, especially when it comes down to shades and hues of non-primary colors. 

Where colors looked identical to men, women were able to discern slight changes in hues among the middle of the spectrum. Similarly, men were more sensitive to changes in brightness across contrasting colors. 

These changes may point to evolutionary differences in how men and women process colors, making it a vital consideration when trying to understand the psychology and emotional response by different audiences to a specific product’s color scheme. 

2. Changes in Color Psychology across Cultures

Another consideration is that each culture may associate different emotions with a specific color. Blue is the safest color for products, as around the world in many cultures it signifies trust, security, and authority. This is probably why most police forces and emergency services opt to use blue uniforms. 

Some of the cultural differences in color perception include:

  • Yellow – While it usually evokes warm and cheerful emotions, in countries like China and France, people associate it with negativity, jealousy, and weakness
  • Green – While western civilizations view green as both good (rebirth and nature) and bad (jealousy or greed), other cultures like Indonesia have even banned the color
  • Red – In Asia, red signifies long life and happiness while in Russia it means revolution and Marxist philosophy

Knowing about these and many other differences can help product designers avoid making a mistake when designing a product for a particular cultural region. 

3. Product-Specific Color Psychology

Choosing the right color for your product will depend on its intended application and the user’s preferences. Arbitrarily choosing colors for products without considering the emotional response you want to create is a risky approach. While in the design stages, you should use a rational color selection methodology that adds value to the final product. 

A color selection methodology requires:

  • Identifying and segmenting the intended users of the product by persona (gender, geography, age, etc.)
  • Establishing the psychological baselines according to prevailing attitudes about color for each segment (gender, culture, or age-specific)
  • Creating a map of value tiers where color changes can enhance product perception (contrasting trims, painting effects, or finishes)
  • Providing recommendations and color configuration options for the product that address all the intended customer segments

Additional Considerations for Color Psychology in Product Design

Lately, the main trend in consumer behavior is a rising need for product customization and personalization. Advances in manufacturing techniques and mass product customization techniques are giving buyers a wealth of options when shopping for products. 

Using predefined color schemes, finishing, and material options are allowing customers to co-design products on the fly with enough freedom to create a product that suits their particular tastes. 

Adding customized options to your products has many benefits. It’s one of the best ways to attract new buyers and provide exceptional buying experiences while helping to grow your brand. It’s especially true if you offer highly configurable products that use modular designs, and you can integrate the engineering and manufacturing requirements into your marketing process.

A product configuration and personalization platform enables you to provide different color schemes, finishing options, and customization capabilities to your customers. 

What is a Product Customization Platform?

Product customization gives your customers the freedom to choose from different options that suit their unique style and color tastes. For fashion brands, the choice of color for a particular dress or garment has a major impact on a shopper’s buying decision. 

By including customized product options, you can:

  • Provide additional customer value by allowing the co-creation of products at scale
  • Increase the margins on products by integrating your engineering and manufacturing requirements with your marketing tools
  • Drive more conversions to your site by providing rich and engaging customer experiences on your website
  • Allow customers to preview products using photorealistic 3D models that change based on the user’s selections
  • Dynamically price and quote products based on user choices 

Fender: An Example of Color Psychology and Customization

Using product customization, you can maximize your use of color psychology in fashion, interior design, and many other products. One of our favorite examples of where color psychology meets product customization can be found in the Fender Mod Shop

Here, customers have complete design freedom to change the color, base material, neck shape, and other elements that will make a guitar or bass unique to their tastes. As a Fender guitar is often a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, providing customization options and enticing color palettes ensures that no customer has to settle for a guitar that doesn’t match their preferences to a T. 

Via Fender

What Industries are Combining Color Psychology with Mass Product Customization?

To create a unique buying experience and allow customers to co-create products, your product customization options need to go beyond novelty effects and add aesthetic or function value. Having multiple color options available is one of the most basic but profitable customization features you can offer. 

Industries that are using color psychology and product customization effectively include:

  • Clothing and apparel – Everything from shoes with different color schemes to choosing a unique shade of tie can help clothing and apparel brands increase margins and sales
  • Electronics and automotive – Choosing the base color of a new car, the internal trim, or personalizing a new electronic device with individualized colors and graphics provide unique buying experiences
  • Beauty and cosmetics – Different shades of makeup and other beauty products that include augmented reality (AR) try-before-you-buy help beauty brands maximize customer satisfaction
  • Home appliances and furniture – Brands like Ikea allow customers to place furniture directly into real environments and see how it would look in different color variations

Using mass customization, product personalization, and color variations are the best ways to differentiate your brand from competitors. The advance of technologies like 3D rendering, AR, and interactive product personalization is helping today’s product designers to deliver shopping experiences that surpass customer expectations and provide unique products that delight customers.

Using Color Psychology and Product Customization to Drive Engagement with ConfigureID

While it’s still important to think through the color options you offer for your products, product personalization puts your customers in the driver’s seat. Ultimately, this helps increase engagement, conversions, brand loyalty, and your bottom line.

With ConfigureID’s product personalization platform, you can offer unlimited customization options including colors, materials, text personalization, and more. 

Our platform provides an intuitive user interface, photorealistic 3D visualization, and sophisticated configuration logic that guide your customers through the personalization process from start to finish.

Leverage the power of color psychology and mass product customization to boost margins and loyalty with ConfigureID. Schedule a demo to see how.

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