The Passionate Color Red

    Jennifer Farley

    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.


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


    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


    Jon Wallace




    Youth Against Sudoko




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

    Pama Liqueur


    Upload Pie





    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?