Does colour matter? I work for a company that uses 3 very unnatural colours as the brand colours. I want to test a theory that because these are such an unnatural colours not seen anywhere in nature that it is hard for users to identify with them and therefore the brand.

Do natural colour schemes work better with the human brain, as in does a colour palette we would have seen daily in nature evoke some deeper subconscious connection inside the users brain and therefore with the brand?

Example - change the unnatural green to more of a leaf or grass green and will this have any impact, change the teal for more of a summer sky blue.

Has anyone here ever done any serious natural colour theory work or testing on anything like this? How could I test this?

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    Is the company anything to do with nature that you particularly need to seem natural? Otherwise I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Does bright red not work for coke because it is 'unnatural'? – JamesRyan Sep 18 '14 at 10:31
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    Regarding coke testing the red color "One such test was the color+taste test in which a person would be fed a few drops of Coca-Cola while showing him a certain color and observing his brain activity. This experiment was repeated for several colors and with hundreds of people for the next few months and the result was that a certain shade of red color triggered the maximum sensations in the brain region related to emotions, happiness, celebration etc. Coca-Cola decided to use this shade of red for all its marketing & product packaging purposes." – Andrew Karrasch Sep 18 '14 at 10:43
  • So there you go, the best colour for them was not natural. – JamesRyan Sep 18 '14 at 10:51
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    @JamesRyan: are you sure red isn't a natural colour? Blood, fire, somebody blushing, lots of varieties of fruit, birds' feathers, beetles' wing cases, sunsets, autumn leaves, etc. – Vince Bowdren Sep 19 '14 at 10:38
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    This question is worded ambiguously. Are you actually asking about 'color pallets based on nature'? Regardless, this isn't so much a UX question as it is a branding or graphic design question. – DA01 Feb 17 '15 at 23:25

It depends on the culture I would imagine.

In modern, western cultures, words such as 'natural' or 'organic' conjure up pretty wholesome and positive associations. Even 'old fashioned' and 'traditional' are quite positive. I speak of words here but similar would apply to some extent with the associated colours.

In emerging economies however, designs we may regard as rather gaudy and unnatural might be popular because they are artificial and so show you're not reliant on horrible old fashioned nature like the poor people in the countryside.

I recall reading an interesting article on the BBC website last week which talked of Chinese people having their wedding photographs taken in London- they wanted Chinese photographers because whereas Europeans like photos to look 'natural' , Chinese people prefer more of a 'natural plus' effect, something which looks more visibly like it was ripped from a movie and had a full (very expensive) lighting team helping to take the photos. The Chinese photographers had more experience/a better idea of what they wanted than Europeans.

In my experience with East Asian websites....even Japan tends towards this preference for the unnatural to some extent.

Generally though as others have said I think it is the brand itself that is important. A brand of calm and relaxing soap shouldn't use violent reds whilst a young person's energy drink would look pretty stupid in earthy tones.

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The short answer is: Yes, color changes perception. But "better for the human brain" depends on what UX problem you're solving. What you are really asking is, "better for my UX" or "better for my brand". Non-natural colors can stimulate the brain in a positive way also...for example, take a look at the Google logo.

I don't think the natural vs unnatural question can be answered without understanding what you are optimizing, but there are a lot of resources available to help you work through this. The term you want to look up is "color theory" or "color theory for designers".

In terms of testing, you can use traditional panel testing to verify your color choices. An example is, mock up 3-4 versions of your logo (or site wireframe) and sit different panels in front of them, then ask them for adjectives to describe the logo. But again, my suggestion is to get familiar with color theory because it's not hard to get a working understanding using free web resources.

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Every color has a unique effect on individuals and stimulates various responses. A research by the University of British Columbia has proven that blue color enhances creativity whereas; the color red helps to be focused and has a positive effect on memory. Studies show that pink color is beneficial for stimulating responses from females whereas dark green color has a motivational effect on males. And Red is an ideal to wear for a walk or exercise, too much exposure to the color red can cause stress.The yellow color enhances concentration, too much of yellow color can cause fatigue.


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    Can you link to this research? If you're mentioning a particular study then you should really provide a link to it. – JonW Sep 18 '14 at 11:39
  • @Rockin Z Do you know the relevant page number for the reference in the UBC magazine you linked to? I searched but couldn't find it. – Matt Obee Sep 18 '14 at 12:33
  • Yes, please point us to the specific research (which article? page number?). In general, these 'color means X' statements should be taken with huge grains of salt for a number of reasons--the least of which being that they are usually measured in an entirely different context. Ie, a green room may make one more relaxed than an orange room, but that doesn't necessarily apply to a green icon on a web page. – DA01 Feb 17 '15 at 23:27

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