marketing & design

Reaction to Website Colors, Feelings, and Emotions

by Brian James Rawson, Emily Dowd, Elana Gaines
September 4, 2022

In this episode of Conversations on Marketing and Design, we react to different websites and their use of color, design, and layout. Through our reactions, we talk about how the same red can feel one way on this site and yet feel completely different on another website; how color, photos, and textures all interact with each other; and how our culture norms and current trends influence how we feel about color and how we think about color.

To learn more about Afternoon Creative, visit their website here: Afternoon Creative


Watch the episode above. Read the transcript below.

Episode Transcript

How we feel in color

Emily: Hello, hello Hello, Brian from Owl Street Studio and Elana and myself from Afternoon Creative. We are back for another marketing chat. And we are still talking about color, like talking about color palettes, websites and how colors use the color psychology.

Today we're going to look at some example sites and talk, talk about how they're…the feelings that they're giving us, the psychology behind the colors, the messaging, and all that good stuff. Um, how are you both doing today? Give me your answer in a color. Brian? How are you doing?

Brian: Bright Pink.

Emily: Bright pink! Excellent! (I mean, I think that's good, right?)

Brian: Yeah!

Emily: Okay. Elana, how are you feeling today in a color?

Elana: I'm feeling white?

Emily: White?...Okay, what does that mean?

Elana: I feel like I cleaned some today and so I have some space. And I'm about to set up a new guest. So it's like white and clean and airy. And I'm just trying to channel that because other parts of my life are really crazy.

Emily: Okay, love that. I'm feeling like a very warm yellow. Like, I'm like I had a pretty good day. I got a lot done. I'm feeling kind of settled. I feel like an accomplished calm.

Our first website reaction

Emily: Okay. Well, let's just, let's jump right into our first site. We're going to start with (can you guys see my screen?)

Brian: We’re starting with Google?

Emily: Haha, not Google (…well, actually, we could start with Google, haha). We are going to start with CVS. Boom. Here we are. I'm gonna kick us off with just my, my quick reaction. I’m seeing a lot of red. I'm seeing a lot of white. It's feeling clinical to me. Elana, what are you seeing?

Elana: I'm seeing a lot of red and white as well. You know, I think you think of medicine and that's where you go to the pharmacy and get whatever you need to heal your ailments..um, yeah.

Emily: Brian?

Colors in the photo design

Brian: Yeah, well, definitely: red, white and black, but I think it’s interesting how they're doing a lot of color in the images. So it's not just the flat read of, like, the box that says, “Your vaccine and testing needs in one place,” but the red in the photo next to it with the  red bag, the photo next to that - the red in all the beauty supplies and the red Tylenol-  so they're really tying in this red not just in the flat colors, but in all the pictures they're using.

Colors to create contrast

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of red, a lot of colorful…oh!… and now we're down here with some blue…

Elana: Interesting.

Emily: …blue and gray. Any, any gut reactions to this blue being added in here?

Brian: Yeah, it’s a nice contrast, so they’re using it to make this bottom part really stand out. So, I mean, I think that blue all on its own doesn't really stand out, but since we've seen so much red, this blue is such, such a contrast, such a difference to that now jumps out.

Colors to create authority

Emily: Absolutely. And I think, like, something that we've talked about previously is authority and power and red and dark blue have come up for both of us, and I think medical, pharmacy, anything in the health industry, definitely they want trustworthy, “We’re the go to source,” so I'm definitely getting that from here.

Our second website reaction

Emily: Let's look at Mad box.io Whoa! Brian, first reaction? What, what are you feeling?

Brian: Like I'm in kindergarten, because the blue plus the texture of these images it feels like blue from Play-Doh. So it feels like something I could squish. It's like a light hearted blue.

Emily: Absolutely. Elana, what are, what are you getting from the colors?

Colors to create playfulness

Elana: I'm gonna say it's very playful. Childlike for sure. You have…, you know, there's the blue in there obviously and then all the other colors. It's like pinks and oranges and some reds - like corally colors-you know, there's not a ton of contrast in all of those colors. But, you know, each one of them has brightness to it. And yeah, they're all very childlike,fun colors.

Emily: I'm gonna jump to another page on this site just to see if we get kind of a different vibe with the colors, not animated. (Oh, we've got more animation) Okay, so we're seeing a pink to orange

Brian: It matches their logo.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. What do you guys think? I mean, to me that I'm assuming this is a kids game or something aimed at parents/kids. What do we think like the pink to orange colors psychology is trying to communicate to parents because previously we've talked about how like on the CVS site red and bright red and dark blue they were asking for trust basically. I would assume any site reaching out to parents is also asking for trust. But here we are in like a totally different color scheme. Um, what do you guys think color wise? Anything jumping out…about orange and pink together here?

Elana: I would say the orange is, you know, it's…both of them…it's like friendliness, welcoming colors, creativity, maybe? (I'm not quite sure what this game is that they're selling or advertising but…) It's possible that there's like a creative piece to it like “Make Your Own Adventure” or something. So yeah, so to me, there's, there's some creativity strewn in there.

Emily: Yeah.

Colors to convey trendiness

Brian: For me, what jumps out…less about the colors it's more about that it's a gradient, and (I don't know if this maybe me being a little cynical, but…) for me it feels like they're just it's trying to say, “Hey we're trendy!” Because gradients right now and gradients like this are really popular kind of like the 2020-21 kind of trend.

So for me, I think it's asking for trust and in a different way, saying like, “Hey, parents we’re cutting edge!” like especially the gradients combined with all the animation of trying to be extra fancy with their website. So I think it's trying to show that “Hey, we're high tech and, and, you know, new, but we're not stuffy and we're not some Uber or DoorDash were something for your kids, but we look kind of like DoorDash and that kind of tech sphere we are so you can trust us because we're trendy!” If that makes sense?

Emily: Yeah, absolutely

Our third website reaction

Emily: Um, next, we are going to look at Rotten Tomatoes. Okay, Brian, first, first impression. I'm gonna scroll a little bit.

Brian: I always have mixed feelings about this site, because I personally really like the site. I use it all the time. But the design and the layout of the site is pretty atrocious. Like, let's just cram as much stuff in one spot as we can. So it's really overwhelming.

Colors to create humor  

Brian: The only thing I like about the red…Honestly, it looks like the same color palette like CVS but here I think the red has a totally different meaning because it ties with the name, you know? It ties directly with tomatoes, so it's kind of on the nose. But for me it feels less about authority where the red in CVS was about authority. This is more wimzie, kind of a joke…you know, playing off the name especially with the little green squish icon, so this red feels juicy. It feels, you know, like food. You know, it might actually be the same red as the CVS, but it feels a lot different.

Colors to give direction  

Emily: Yeah, I think it's interesting how this site (and I I agree. It's hard to look at but…) what's great about it is they really leaned into the color psychology in the sense that you see red, you kind of, you have a message taken away. You see green, you know, it’s very much the traffic light in here it's easy to quickly look at it and know what's going on.

And also, I've always, I always kind of noticed…there are certain sites that have to share a lot of imagery that they don't have control over. So they're going to share, they have to share the movie poster but they have no…they can't put an overlay of you know their shade of red on every single one. So I do think the primary red is a good color to pair with basically every other color ever - kind of a base color.

Colors to create distinction

Elana: It also, it also stands out from the other colors in the movie posters. You don't see a lot of movie posters that use red like that. So, you know, that sort of in a way doesn't 100% guarantee that it's going to…that it's not going to feel like it's part of the movie poster but it almost…it like 99% guarantees that the branding will stick out from whatever images that they're showing.

Brian: Are your presents a pun on Rotten Tomatoes?

Emily: Are what?

Elana: Ah…Yeah, they are.

Brian:  This website’s Certified Fresh. It's got 100%. That red’s a 100%. 89%. Audience views it's 75%

Our fourth website reaction

Emily:  All right, we’re jumping to the next one. We got to get away from this red. We’re going to Seed.com. I knew it was gonna be green.

Brian: It could have been brown.

Emily: Whoa, okay. Brian first impressions.

Brian: I can't tell. Is that green…is the background is it a texture? Is it like a cloth?

Emily: Um, could be it's kind of, to me, it just looks pixelated.

Colors combined with texture

Brian: Okay, that's what I can't tell. Say that's interesting how…I think…how textures can change the feeling of the color. So maybe if that green was totally flat I might have one emotion to it, but because it's has a texture to it, it makes me feel differently and I like it. It feels really calming. It's not what I expected. It’s a lot darker. This kind of shade of green I know is also kind of the current trend, but it feels deep, maybe majestic. And I guess also the paired with how big the picture is and the layout it's green everywhere. It's a giant picture. So it feels, it feels deep. Yeah…kind of taking it in.

Emily: Yeah, it's giving me a lot of, like, organic, clean, kind of negative space, less is more vibes. What about you, Elana?

Colors to create spaciousness

Elana: Yeah, I was gonna say less is more. You know, I have no idea again anything about this brand. But sort of…maybe “clean ingredients” or “you know what you're getting,” “it comes from the earth” (who knows if it really does). You know, it reminds me of grass and sort of like a big green pasture, and yeah, there's just…it like no fuss: you get what you see.

Our fifth website reaction

Emily: Okay, I'm moving on to our last one for the evening. We're going to FlyPlatoon.com (and we’re on New Orleans internet so nice and slow…)

Brian: (Oh, yeah. Really slow.)

Emily: (Really slow.) There we go…Okay, whoa, whoa, whoa. All right. Um, okay. First impressions: I'm seeing a lot of black, white and gray. Brian, what, what is, what are they conveying to us? With us? Again, monotone kind of palette?

Colors to conjure culuratual meanings

Brian: Yeah, I think…Well, I think they're trying to use all the cultural connotations of everything going on in this design, not just the color, to convey class, to convey a certain socio-economic status. So you know, what we think of as “High-Class” you know, this starkness of white and black and kind of a monotone, but then we're looking at (what is this a private jet or something?) And then the font, the lettering, you know, it all comes together to make it feel like it's “Upper Crust” - whatever you feel about that?

Emily: Yeah. I'm gonna keep scrolling a little bit. I think there's a little more color in here.

Brian: I say I use that font like, “Darn it, guys! That’s one of my favorite fonts!”

Emily: Okay Elana, What? What reactions are you having to this new set of colors?

Colors to create softness

Elana: Yeah, it's interesting. It…the red is so…it's like a deep red so to me reminds me of like red velvet in a way. So, you know, which you might think of like a king's robe or something like that. And yeah, so like initially it to me it doesn't really fit with the original graphic or animation, the black and white. It feels, it feels softer and more, more elegant, but still elevated, I guess. So maybe like less sophisticated but more and more elegant.

Colors to create force

Emily: Yeah, to me, this red is a little bit…well, I guess?... intimidating? This whole color palette is very, yeah, intimidating to me, which I guess maybe is part of their messaging. They want it very exclusive, very unattainable to the masses. I would have- to me when I think of a private jet, I think kind of light and airy, still very exclusive and, you know, expensive, but I would think more black, white and something a little softer.

Our take-aways

Emily: Just to close this out, I'm gonna leave this really open ended. Was there a particular site or a particular use of color that really got the message through to one of you like which one really stood out with their use of color? Brian, do you have an answer ready?

Colors to convey a specific feeling and meaning

Brian: Well, I think the one that was the most concise and kind of the most power packed was actually the first one. I think CVS they pulled everything together to convey exactly I think the message they want to conve. Where the other ones, like Rotten Tomatoes with that same kind of red, it was a little muddled. Where I think CVS really had the best kind of all in, you know, bang for your buck kind of punch.

Emily: Yeah. Elana, what do you think?

Colors to speak to your specific audience

Elana: I thought the seed, the seed website, the probiotic website, did a good job conveying, you know, that they were…I don't know…that you know I think they have an audience, for sure. And they're trying to reach that audience and, and there is a message that they're trying to convey. It may not be the entire story behind it. Because, you know, when you see that green and you think earthy and all these things like you don't necessarily immediately think probiotic. So they might need something else additionally to help convey that message, but they definitely seem like they're on that track toward getting their message across. What do you think, Emily?

Colors to give specific direction and information

Emily: I…I agree for me Seed was the one that stood out, but I do want to give honorable mention to Rotten Tomatoes for their use of basically traffic light colors. I think it'...I think it was a really smart site or a really smart decision for a site like that, where what they want is for you to be able to quickly look and take away the right message. And so to me, they really, they made that easy. Anyone could go to it for the first time and glance really briefly and be able to walk away with some new knowledge

In Closing

Emily: Okay, so great chatting with y'all.

Brian: Yeah, you too!

Emily: Good to see again.

Elana: Yeah!

Emily: Good night.

Brian: There you go. No bloopers, No uh…

Post-credits scene

Emily: In one word. What does red mean? Brian?

Brian: Passion.

Elana: Oh my god! Oh my god! Sorry, sorry. Sorry! There's a mouse!

Brian: You ok?

Elana: No, no! Hold on, I’m going to get my husband to deal with it while I'm in here.

Brian: No problem. You want us to stop recording or keep this on tape?

Emily: Hahah, Keep recording! Keep recording! Hahaha!

Elana: (There’s a #### mouse trying to #### trying eat in Angie’s dog food. I don’t know where it is. Can you come see it? It’s still around. Thank you.) Oh my god, sorry…

Brian: That’s ok. Talk about the odds right when I said the word “passion” you like jumped?

Emily: I know, I know. It’s like the Spirit overtook you.

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