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How Sign Colors Affect a Customer’s Response

August 05, 2019

Effective sign design requires careful consideration of several different elements. Font size, sign dimensions, kerning, and even images can mean the difference between a persuasive sign and one the falls completely flat.

One of the most critical elements of a sign is color. There have been many different studies performed over the years that show how people psychologically react to different colors. The name of this phenomenon is the “Psychology of Color” and can subconsciously affect the behavior of a person and influence how they act and think.

Different cultures experience different emotions when viewing the same color. For example, in China, people equate the color red to “luck” and “joy,” while in America, we consider red to be intense and exciting.

If you design your own signs, we’ve compiled a handy little list as to what the various colors mean and when you should use them to make your signs that much more persuasive and compelling.


Black represents power, intelligence, and stability. It’s an authoritative color that’s sometimes viewed as unknown or mysterious. Use the color black if you’re trying to create an air of mystery or suspense. It should be noted that black can be viewed as intimidating if it’s the dominant color of a sign. 


The color blue promotes peace, tranquility, and water. It has a calming effect upon the human brain and can help offer a sense of security, encourage productivity, or limit the appetite. 

Restaurants should be conscious of their usage of the color blue when used in close proximity of menu or menu boards. If your brand is looking to promote trust, then there’s no better color to use than blue.

Orange and Yellow

Orange and yellow are happy, cheerful, and bright colors. They convey a sense of warmth, clarity, and optimism when used in the design of a sign. Such companies as Subway, Best Buy, and McDonald’s incorporate these two colors in their signage and branding.

The color yellow by itself can sometimes cause babies to cry, and orange might lead some people to feel a heightened sense of anxiety or nervousness. Orange and yellow are particularly useful in signage that promotes impulse buys near the checkout aisle. 


The color red is flashy, angry, and fast. Many fast-food restaurants will use it in their signage materials as it can indicate quick hunger. Retail stores will often use the color red to promote a sense of urgency when promoting their in-store flash sales. Red can even increase blood pressure and heart rates. This is what makes it an excellent choice for signs that need to express passion, excitement, or severe urgency.


Purple is most often associated with respect, provenance, or creativity. It’s a regal color that many creative agencies will use in their signage or branding.

High-end fashion brands will often use purple to denote exclusivity and a high-quality factor for their products.

People under the age of 25 tend to view purple as sexy and rebellious, and it’s a great complementary color for jade green, turquoise, gold, and red.


The color green makes people think of trees, nature, and grass. It’s most often used by companies who want to associate their brands with nature and purity. Health-based businesses will often use green to create a healthy, emotional connection to their products.

Green can also help stimulate the brain and prevent procrastination. It’s an excellent color for signs and printed materials that have a deadline or time-sensitive information. Many sign designers will use it when trying to help guide a consumer to make a particular choice.

Elements of Design

The contrast and shades of the colors that you use should also be taken into consideration when designing a sign. Humans can quickly develop eyestrain if they view a sign that has two non-complimentary colors.

A color wheel is a useful tool that can help sign designers pick colors that will complement one another and prevent eyestrain from setting in. This will also allow the reader to focus on a particular area of the sign, such as the call-to-action.

Darker shades of color work well when signs have a lot of information crammed into a small space. Brighter shades of color can give off an energetic feel, which can help persuade people to responder quicker.

Sign Design in Seattle

At McNamara Signs, we’ve helped countless Seattle businesses and organizations with their custom sign design and creation. Give us a call at (206) 284-0809, or contact us via our website to learn more about our sign design and creation services!

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