Notice how brown is used in the image above. What does the color brown mean to you? How does brown make you feel? Do you associate brown with certain qualities or situations?
According to color psychology, colors can evoke psychological reactions and influence how people feel and behave. Brown tends to feel like a solid, earthy color, but it can sometimes seem drab and boring. Light browns such as beige are often used as neutrals in design and fashion. While they can provide a conservative and traditional backdrop, these shades are often perceived as dull.
Like most colors, brown can have positive and negative associations and meanings. Some of the key characteristics associated with brown in color psychology include:
In feng shui, a system of harmonizing your environment, each color correlates to a specific feng shui element.2 Brown represents either wood, if it’s dark and rich, or earth if it’s light. Though it has an energetic, nurturing quality, brown should be used sparingly in your decorating and be well balanced with other colors to avoid a lack of ambition and drive. Blue is a good color to combine with brown because of the earth-water harmony.
Color plays an important part in the psychology of marketing and branding and can influence people’s perception of a brand’s personality.3 It’s more important to pick a color that supports the personality of your brand than it is to try to instill certain feelings in potential customers since everyone has different experiences and opinions.
In branding and marketing, brown is associated with reliability, dependability, and nurturing. Popular brands that use brown in their logos and marketing include UPS, Hershey’s, Cotton, Edy’s, J.P. Morgan, and M&Ms.
While there are generalities we can make about colors and what people associate with them, colors and our affinity toward them have a lot to do with our personalities, upbringing, environment, and experiences.
One recent study on how adults perceive color showed that more females than males chose brown as their overall favorite color. But it was still one of the three least favorite colors for both genders.4
However, when it comes to clothing, brown was chosen as the fifth favorite color out of 18 total colors, including no preference. Brown was the second color choice for both men and women for their living rooms and the fourth choice for their bedrooms.
Look at the image that accompanies this article and consider how the color makes you feel. Do you feel inspired or refreshed, or does it leave you feeling cold and lonely? Many people find white serene and pure, while others feel that it’s stark and cold.
One thing to remember is that such color associations are not necessarily universal. Colors can have different meanings, symbolism, and associations in other cultures.
In Western cultures, the color white is often associated with weddings, hospitals, and angels and is often used to convey a sense of purity, cleanliness, and peacefulness.
In many Eastern cultures, however, white is symbolically linked to death and sadness. It’s often a color used in funerals and other mourning rituals.
According to color psychology, these are the characteristics of white:1
White is considered a powerful color in feng shui, a system of arranging your environment to create harmony. Colors are linked to certain feng shui elements and in the case of white, the element it expresses is metal.2 Wood and glass accents go extraordinarily well with white, as do bits of black to balance it out. White is also great for kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms and white flowers in white pots are an economical way to incorporate white into your environment.
In marketing and branding, white is used to convey a feeling of safety, purity, freshness, and cleanliness, as well as to create contrast. Some famous brands that use a great deal of white in their logos and marketing are Michelin, Gap, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Lego, Volkswagen, Starbucks, Fisher-Price, Levi’s, and Ford.
One study on adults’ color preferences showed that out of 18 total colors, including no preference, white only ranked fifteenth as the overall favorite color. It fared a little better when the same adults were asked to rank their favorite color in clothing, coming in at tenth.
When asked to choose their favorite colors for the physical environment, white was overwhelmingly the number one favorite for all the listed rooms: living rooms, bedrooms, offices, and meeting rooms.