The Psychology Of Color And Instructional Design

The Psychology Of Color And Instructional Design
Summary: Balancing the art, emotional connection, and psychology of color. And the benefits of this knowledge in Instructional Design and marketing.

The Art And Psychology Of Color

The art and psychology of color is a deeply intimate thing. Color affects us daily, from the moment we wake, throughout our day, and well into our evening. This connection to color, and the emotions it evokes plays a big part in how we design as educators, marketers, and brand storytellers.

What Is The Psychology Of Color? 

Color psychology is the science of how color can affect human behavior. This field is a broach branch within psychology and can be very complicated. Humans interpret color based on their personal color preferences, but there are also stereotypical ideas and color associations that affect consumer preference. The combination of the two leads to color and color choice playing a large role in brand marketing and strategy.

How Color Affects Psychology

Color can affect both attitudes and emotions. The human eye takes in color, which then communicates with the hypothalamus in the brain. This signals the pituitary and thyroid glands, resulting in behavior. Knowing how color is taken in and interpreted is important for marketing strategies because on average it takes a consumer 90 seconds to form an opinion about a product, and 62 to 90% of interaction with the product is determined solely by color.

Consumers typically buy items in colors that are the most appealing to them, but there are several aspects that affect color choice for each individual including:

  • Personal preference.
  • Experiencing.
  • Upbringing.
  • Cultural differences.
  • Context.

When choosing colors for branding and marketing, it can be difficult to follow color association rules because consumers may not interpret those colors quite as linearly as the associations suggest. As a brand it is important to make practical decisions about color and include both how individuals choose color and what color associations or correlations may portray with each color choice.

Color And Its Impact On The Consumer And Audience

Color is an important part of branding because color choice can suggest the mood or target audience of the product or service. When looking at color and how it impacts the consumer, color has to be used in the following ways:

  • In the right way.
  • At the right time.
  • With the right audience.
  • For the right purpose.

Keeping these ideas in mind, it’s also important to see how the consumer interprets color. Men and women have different color preferences, which can be useful when choosing colors and considering the target audience. Men typically choose shades of their favorites, while women pick tints of their favorites. In branding and products these preferences translate to products for men including colors like blue or green with a black accent, and products for women in blue or purple with a white accent.

Color Associations

Color associations are the stereotypical way colors are interpreted. Each color is assigned specific meaning, and these meaning correlate with how color is used throughout a culture. When considering colors for a brand or logo it’s important to understand color associations but not to treat them as hard and fast rules because color interpretation is dependent on the individual.


Most people like blue and it is known to signify trust, peace, order, and loyalty. This color is typically the color used in corporate America. Blue is never to be used in association with food as it can prevent people from eating more.


This color is mostly known as a warning color, and is used in signs and traffic signals to caution others. Yellow can also indicate happiness, which can show that a brand is fun or playful.


The color symbol for nature and is used in outdoor and environmental products. Green can also improve creativity and be useful on website as a call to action or highlight color.


This color can be used to show urgency, like with an “add to cart” button. Orange is a loud and warm color that can mean fun and togetherness, but may be overwhelming.


This can signify luxury and value. This color is usually used to signify elegance, sophistication, power, and is frequently seen with high-end items. Black can also be timeless and classic.


White, typically used as white space, can be very powerful and create a sense of freedom, spaciousness, and breathability. White works well with an existing color scheme to highlight and draw attention to other colors.

Benefits Of Color In Instructional, Promotional, And Web Design

Color plays a large role in marketing, not only because the consumer has personal color preferences that can affect their view of the brand, but also because color can help a brand stand out and can increase traffic or revenue. This specific discussion will focus on website design and how color can increase traffic, guide a user through the website, influence consumer perception, and help differentiate among competitors.

A website color scheme establishes the brand and provides a mood or vibe for the whole user experience. Specific colors need to be chosen for all areas of the website, such as:

  • Headline type.
  • Borders.
  • Backgrounds and textures.
  • Buttons.
  • Popups.
  • Promotions and giveaways.
  • Menus and navigation.
  • Sidebars.
  • Sign up forms and registration.
  • Call to action.

The main goals of choosing colors for a website are to showcase the brand and its overall mood, as well as improve conversion and sales, your colors will match your branding identity kit. One example of this is highlighting the call to action with a contrasting color. People remember items more when they stand out, so by making your call to action, such as an add to cart or sign up button, stand out with a pop of color, users are more likely to click on it and continue through the website. Primary colors are a solid choice in this situation, since the highest converting colors are bright primary and secondary colors.

When choosing colors make sure choices are adapted to the current color scheme. Shades of primary or secondary colors may be better suited to the current scheme, versus changing the whole scheme to accommodate a new call to action color.

Benefits Of Color In Logo Choice

The most important role of color in a logo is to make that logo and brand stand out among its competitors. Color also helps the consumer differentiate the brand among the competitors and will influence the consumer’s perception of the brand. Since color preference is too personal to evoke universal emotion, colors should be chosen to suit the brand’s personality and showcase the brand’s identity.  In choosing colors for a brand the following must be considered:

  • Does the color fit what is being sold?
  • Does the color showcase the brand's personality?
  • Can the brand be immediately recognized?

Color, branding, and your digital storytelling is everything. Your design, your reputation, your name, a symbol, or tone that separates you from everything and everyone else.

Understanding the psychology of color in relation to your Instructional Design, game design, or general teaching will allow you to align with your students, niche, or community. Take the time to study the color psychology profiles, and infuse this knowledge into your brand and instruction. We are visually stimulated, and often make decisions based off of our emotional relationship to color.