Friday, July 23, 2010

Love and introduction to RED.

Welcome to Part 3 in our ongoing series on color psychology. This time we take a look at the color RED.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with red, which is oddly appropriate for the color. From many cultures throughout history the color red has shown itself to have the most duality of any other color. Some see the color as good luck, others as a warning, some as the color of royalty and others as the color of evil. The color has even spreads its dualistic nature into our vernacular.


  • Increases enthusiasm

  • Stimulates energy

  • Can increase blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat + pulse rate

  • Encourages action and confidence

  • Gives a sense of protection from fears and anxiety

We associate red both with Cupid (love) and Satan (hate). We see is as a color that makes us want to go towards something...quickly and as a warning to stop immediately. Honestly, one could get whiplash from this color. It is the color that people pay the most attention to. It is also the warmest the most energetic and the most intensely emotional color in the spectrum. If you want to draw attention, use red. It is often where the eye looks first. Red is the color of energy. It's associated with movement and excitement. People surrounded by red find their heart beating a little faster and often report feeling a bit out of breath. It's absolute the wrong color for a baby's room but perfect to get people excited. Wearing red clothes will make you appear a bit heavier (I cannot imagine how this is a good thing) and certainly more noticeable. (Some studies show red cars get more tickets but that maybe because the red car owners drive faster or the ticket giver notices the movement of the red car more prominently).

As mentioned above the color, and its duality, has found its way into our vernacular.

Good RED:

  • Red letter day

  • Red carpet treatment

  • Paint the town red

  • Red eye (alright, so this one is more of a neutral)
Bad RED:

  • Seeing red

  • Red herring

  • In the red

  • Red flag
Red is the one color that can very quickly ruin an interior design color scheme. Used in the correct amounts and in the right combination with other colors red can be a stunning accent / splash of color to any interior. Basically, unless you have an extremely sophisticated sense of color red should be used sparingly as the color can easily overrun a room. The main point to remember is to pair red with appropriate colors to create a harmonious space.

Cool blues provide contrast and tone down the heat of red. Light pinks and yellows are harmonizing colors that can work well with red if not too close in value such as dark red with a pale or golden yellow. Be careful using purple. It can be an elegant combination but too much could be overpowering. If white is the predominant color of a space make sure that red is used in very small amounts, especially if the red is vibrant.

Red is one of the most popular colors used in advertising. Much like I described in the previous post on yellow, "Here comes the introduction to yellow" red is used to evoke a quick response from the viewer, to draw the eye and keep attention. One of my favorite secrets that advertisers and merchandisers use to make you feel like you are simply attracted to an item just because of what it is is to use lamps (light bulbs) that emit light that is very high in the red spectrum. The trick is that you don't even "really" see red color in the light, it is all done on a subconscious level. The item is bathed in this unseen red heavy light and your enthusiasm about the item is increased, all the other psychological aspects of red come into play and voila, you miraculously "all of a sudden" want the item...for no real reason in most cases. Yes, it is devious but has proven to be very effective, most stores use this trick to focus on merchandise that is special in some way i.e. new, on sale, etc. while other less reputable stores use it throughout the entire store. So the next time you see an item in a store that has special lighting focused on it be ware.

As with any color, if you are not sure about using it start out with an accent of two. If you like it move on to something a bit more substantial. In closing please allow me to share with you the one idea I personally apply to everything I do or design, quite simply put..."Be Mindful"

A wonderful use of red as an accent
The Red Room, White House...lovely
La Desserte (Harmony in Red) by Matisse
Another beautiful use of red as an accent
Red, even a great accent for dinner...with lemon & butter of course
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