How can colours help you in your everyday life?

During my time here at MIUC, many students have approached me to ask if I taught about colours in my design modules. They seem very interested in this subject and unfortunately for some, they are not able to attend my classes. So without going into the specifics of the colour wheel and how to use colour to improve or communicate a design more clearly, I have chosen to briefly describe the principal use of colours and how they might affect us. How can colours help you in your everyday life?”

Without being too scientific, most of our associations with colours are taken from nature. Take the colour blue. Most people will associate it with blue skies, which for most people is a positive thing. It means playing outside and having fun. It means freedom outside the classroom. It also means that there is no danger on the horizon. That is why it reminds us of stability and calm. Perhaps that is the reason why so many banks use the colour blue for their logo?

It must be said that there are no definitive answers, but there are decades of research of what people think of colours. Does that mean we can use colours to perfect a situation? According to various research here is your personal colour guide:

What Colour to Wear on a Date (if you’re a woman): Red

Red is the colour of passion and gets blood pumping. Women can wear this to get their date’s heart racing.

What Colour to Wear on a Date (if you’re a man): Blue

Blue is the most stable colour. Women love seeing stable men. It is also calming and can help relax both you and your date’s nerves.

What colour to Wear for a Job Interview:


Navy blue is the best option for a first interview, as it gives an impression of authority, confidence, trust, honesty, loyalty and stability. It’s a colour of a team player, which bosses like.

Grey, black, brown and white are all good colours although be careful with black as it can be intimidating for some.

Women tend to react more positively to blue based colours, such as deep blue-reds, blue-greys, most pinks, and blue-greens. Use these colours when being interviewed by a female.

To men, the yellow-based colours are more attractive. True reds and orange reds, peachy-apricot along with most blues are best. Use these colours if being interviewed by a male, but only in small quantities and as an accent colour.

Blue is the most universally liked colour, and it creates a positive response from both men and women. It is the safest colour to use for job interviews, as it is conservative and non-confrontational and loved universally by men and women in most cultures. This includes all blues, ranging from light through to dark blue.

What Colour to Choose for Your Desktop: Green

What colour you choose for your desktop and the colours you choose for your website can greatly affect your productivity. The colour green is restful for eyes and produces the least amount of eyestrain. This is a good choice for computer desktops if you are in front of a screen for many hours.

What Colour to Wear for a Work Out: Orange

Orange is the colour of stimulation and enthusiasm. Orange is a nice mix of red’s passion and yellow’s joy. Research has found that orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an energizing effect, and stimulates brain activity.

What to Wear If You Want to Be Seen as Aggressive: Black

Researchers examined statistics from more than 52,000 National Hockey League games and found that teams were penalized more for aggression while wearing black jerseys. (Hockey teams have two different coloured jerseys, switching for home and away games). Interestingly, in 2003, the NHL changed its jersey policy so that home teams had to wear white. The authors of the study compared the sets of data and found that the same teams were assessed significantly more penalties for aggression when they wore the black jerseys than when they wore white.

What Colours to Paint Your Office: Blue and Green

Green and blue Office
In 1999, researchers at Creighton University found that colours significantly influenced employees’ emotions and efficiency. Workers in blue offices felt the most centred, calm and hopeful towards their work. Since blue can lower heart rates and green reduces anxiety and is associated with money, a combination of blue and green is best for the workplace.

Choosing the colour of your office, your clothes or your desktop should not be taken lightly — colours do affect our moods and productivity. However, colours are not the only thing that affects us — one can still be efficient in a grey suit or workout well in a black outfit. But, when given the choice, picking a colour that will work with you, and not against you can only help.

How do we see colour

It is important to know that while colours make an impression on how we feel, these effects are heavily linked to personal, cultural and situational factors. People in Asia, for example, have different associations with colours then we do in other parts of the world.

If you want to know more about the subject, I recommend the sources below or signing up for my modules aimed at Year 2 & 3 MIUC students…


  • Elliot, AJ. Color and psychological functioning: A review of theoretical and empirical work. Frontiers in Psychology.
  • 2015;
  • Elliot, AJ & Maier, MA. Color psychology: Effects of perceiving color on psychological functioning in humans. Annual Review of Psychology. 2013;65:95-120.
  • Elliot, AJ & Maier, MA. Color and psychological functioning. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2007;16(5): 250-254.
  • Kida, TE. Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make In Thinking. New York: Prometheus Books; 2006.
  • O’Connor, Z. Colour psychology and colour Therapy: Caveat emptor. Color Research & Application. 2011;36(3):229-234.


  • Jacobs, Keith W. and Frank G. Hustmyer Jr. (1974), “Effects of Four Psychological Primary Colors on GSR, Heart Rate and Respiration Rate,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 38, 763-66.
  • Color Wheel Pro. Accessed: October 31, 2012.
  • University of Hawaii at Hilo; The Psychology of Color; Kalyan N. Meola; 2005
  • “Effects of Office Interior Color on Worker’s Mood and Productivity.” Nancy K Wallek, Carol M. Lewis, and Ann S. Robbins. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988, 66, 123-128.
  • Birren, F. (1978). Color & Human Response. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Inc.
  • Mahnke, F. (1996). Color, environment and human response. New York: Wiley.
  • Mahnke, R. & Mahnke, F. (1993). Color and Light 1993. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Webster, G., Urland, G., & Correll, J. (2011). Can Uniform Color Color Aggression? Quasi-Experimental Evidence From Professional Ice Hockey Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3 (3), 274-281 DOI: 10.1177/1948550611418535

By Christian Frode Olsen