The Passionate Color Red

virgin_logoToday is the start of a new series looking at individual colors in design with a brief look at color psychology and plenty of visual examples. Color is an important element in design. It has been used to affect our moods, influence shopping choices, and to symbolize emotions. So let’s kick this off with probably the most emotionally charged (and my personal favorite) color, Red.

Color perception can be subjective, but there is universal acceptance that warm colors are located in the red area of the color spectrum (red, orange, yellow), with the cool colors lying on the blue side of the spectrum (blue, green, purple). Red evokes emotions of warmth and comfort, but also hostility and anger. On almost every traffic light in the world, red means stop. Chromatherapy or Light Therapy studies have shown that red can increase blood pressure and the rate of respiration. In the Far East, red is often worn by brides, is the color of mourning in South Africa, represents integrity in India and came to represent communism in Russia after the Bolsheviks used a red flag when they overthrew the Tsar.

We use red in our everyday language to describe many different things. We can see red, have a red letter day, take a red eye flight, roll out a red carpet and paint the town red. Clearly, red means a lot of things to a lot of people.

Red In Design

When it comes to design, red grabs attention. It’s not a wallflower background color, it shouts out from the page. It jumps out of photographs. You can be really bold and use it widely throughout the design, although a little bit can go a long way. Look at the two movie posters below. They are aimed at two completely different audiences but both use red effectively to grab our attention. “Burn After Reading” (the design is a homage to Saul Bass) has a bright red background with big bright text. It looks upbeat.

untitled

The poster for “The Dark Knight” has a more sinister tone with the red type appearing like blood.

dark_knight_ver4

Red is certainly popular in logo design, undoubtedly because of it’s ability to attract attention. Here’s a number of logos you may be familiar with, resplendent in red.

virgin_logo coke

colgate youtube

canon_logo cnn

When using red in web design, some designers choose to go really bold and use red as the main color. This takes guts as it can be quite overwhelming and stop people in their tracks. Here’s a few “in your face” red designs.

Too Much Tweet

TooMuchTweet

Jon Wallace

jonwallace

Godmother

Godmother

Youth Against Sudoko

sudoko

Tuesday

tuesday

Other web designs use just a hint or touch of red to lift the overall color scheme are:

Pama Liqueur

PamaLiquer

Upload Pie

uploadpie

http://www.glazbenaskolakrizevci.hr/

Glaz

Levilive

levi

Red Associations: Love, Cupid, Anger, Hell, Devil, Emotion, Stop, High Energy, Passion, Blood, Danger.

What does red mean to you? Do you use red much in your design work? What do you think of the designs featured here?

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  • http://www.logoraman.com electroskan.com

    For me too much red defeats the purpose of the color. Red as you said is definitely a color that can catch your attention and hence should be used intelligently in your designs. I know of people who just take their eyes away from monitor and yell WTH when there is an overdose of red.

  • cahura

    Red (a lot of it) used skillfully in design work means to me; bold, energetic, adventurous, boundary breaking. It definitely would catch your attention, as it should, being the objective in a world of many distractions. I have begun to use it in my designs.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk/ Nicola Connolly

    “On almost every traffic light in the world, red means stop” – I’m intrigued to know where it doesn’t?

    To me, red is certainly a strong & eye-catching colour which can be used to communicate many emotions within design work. Black & white photos are often washed with red to denote death/danger/anger/passion.

    I guess the fact that heat becomes “red hot” gives it a certain energy & power in a natural sense which is innately associated in our minds when we then encounter the colour in design situations.

  • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

    @Nicola. Yes LOL. I said “almost every traffic light in the world” because if I didn’t I suspect there would have been a comment on here pretty quickly telling me about a traffic light in some small town, somewhere that has a blue stop light.