Red Can Be Both Love and Hate — Color Monday

Red is a bit of a mercurial color — it can be used to describe opposites:

  • love and hate
  • passion and jealousy
  • celebration and violence, and interestingly
  • Communism and right wing Conservatism.

It’s also used visually to communicate Stop. Danger. Fire.

If you’re thinking about using red in your branding colors, or in a design project for a client but you’re hesitating because of its intensity, here are a few things to ask yourself and to think about:

  • Are you designing for a business or an industry where you want to come across as assertive and knowledgeable? Red could be your gal!
  • Take a walk outside.
    • Walk down the main street in your town and take note of how businesses have used red in their signage. What kind of businesses use red? What various shades of red are you seeing in the signs?
    • Walk in nature, look in gardens and see what shades of red you can find. Do you see it paired with any colors that strike you as beautiful?
  • Red has many nuances: A bright tomato red will make a bold statement, where as a warmer brick red will feel earthier.
  • Can you use red an an accent color, to direct people to action? For instance on a button or a sign up form? Try it out and see how it looks with your overall design.
  • Look at red on a white background, and red on a black background — do you see how the white tames the red, just a bit, and the black makes it more vibrant? Look at it on top of its compliment green, and see how that relationship looks. {On the color wheel, green is directly opposite red, and thus they are called complimentary colors.}

Remember that we always see color in context — which can mean its proximity to another color or the environment that the color is placed in (i.e. the white of a page, the black of a website background, etc).

Red can ride the spectrum from deep red, to earthy burgundys and brick reds, bright fire engine reds, to pink-y cherry reds, and they all have a different feel and voice. Do any of these appeal to you more than the others?

What do you want to say with Red?