Colour your business

Colours guide us much more than we would think: There are colours that attract us – and then there are colours that make us feel uneasy. A dirty brown reminds us of soiling and therefore creates a sense of repugnance, making it most likely the most unpopular hue.

How colour impacts the feel-good factor and buying behaviour of consumers

Colours contain an evolutionary code which was crucial to survival because it helped to distinguish ripe fruit from unripe ones. Long before man was able to communicate using signs and words, colour was already the most important means of communication and therefore, essential for survival: only a red apple was ripe and nutritious.


Colour, the organism and subconscious communication

Modern biology explains that our eye and brain respond to colour stimulus because of evolutionary reasons. One example: Our eyes contain rhodopsin, a molecule specialised in helping us perceive colour. It activates adrenalin (a stress hormone) in response to red light, and melatonin (a hormone with a calming effect) in response to blue. This indicates that our subconscience reacts to colour without us being able to knowingly impact this: Red makes us feel warm. The heartrate starts to increase, and blood pressure rises: We get active. This is just one example of many.

The world of colour is earth’s largest communication system. It works on a non-verbal, pan-cultural level and, naturally, is omnipresent without us really being aware of just how colour can influence our emotions and our decisions on a subliminal scale. Therefore, its specific and accurate use in commercial premises can trigger certain codes in our subconscience with which we can even control the sentiment of our peers or customers.


Colour is a matter of taste

Colour signals which we have acquired can equally manipulate us physically: For example, our organism is likely to perceive orange juice dyed blue using a tasteless colorant as bitter or sour. Green rooms symbolise a connection with nature, but also relaxedness and tradition. Yellow comes across as sunny, but quickly also as too loud, bright, or outdated. Red is a highly polarising colour. It symbolises love, warmth, and a feeling of security, but also aggression and supremacy. Blue stands for what is pure, calm, clean. But it can also feel sterile and cool. It reduces the length of wanting to stay. Currently all the vogue are warm nuances of grey. They are discreet, emphasise products, and are an ideal complement to wood, wall coverings, and copper or gilded accessories, which are very much the trend.

The right tone for a shop

To define an accurate, strategic colour concept, one has to know one’s target group, one’s product and the related associations to create a certain atmosphere whose perfectly co-ordinated colour ambiance creates a positive shopping experience, thereby generating an increase in sales. An expert can help.

Or do you prefer to help yourself? Then take a look at the following tips:

  • If the commercial premises are small: Light-coloured surfaces or solids come across larger than dark ones and visually expand the space. The cause for this lies in nature’s experience. The drawback: Since light colours are highly reflective, the light that rebounds outshines the borders of a shape. The pupil retracts. It is therefore not advisable to paint commercial premises pure white. Products placed in front of a pure white backdrop lose their definition and brilliance. And consequently, their quality.
  • Attention: Colours become increasingly noticeable the warmer, purer, and more saturated they are. Very light and very dark hues are more attention-grabbing than mid-range brights. But it pays off to be courageous and paint the shop window or even a wall for a campaign dark: Its appeal will be alluring, of high quality, and interesting.
  • The general guideline is: To create stylish premises that please the eye, it is best to avoid so-called chromatic colours and instead refer to achromatic colours. Chromatic colours are highly saturated and are more at home in the print or advertising sector. Achromatic colours are subtler, less saturated, and feel much more natural. They are used to paint the façade of old buildings.

Colours and trend designs in retail stores

  • Walls or the inside of a shop should generally opt for more subtle hues, meaning pastels, tones or hues using more subdued pigments, otherwise they tend to distract or overstimulate. After all, the merchandise is the primary focus, not the surrounding colours.
  • Colours become luminous if they are characteristically isolated (e.g. black border, frame, or background): This helps them make advertising or stagings even more clearly recognisable for customers.
  • Wall covering or a coarsely rendered wall will always appear darker compared to a smooth surface because the texture casts shade which blends with the respective colour to become a surface that has a dark feel to it. This is also the case for white walls that often seem greyish and dusty...
  • But when it comes to the logo, lettering and advertising message, you should use strong tones and primary colours such as pure red, blue or yellow because they create a greater contrast and are perceived more easily and clearly. Our awareness is programmed to respond to contrasts. We tend to recognise objects more easily if they stand out from a crowd.
  • Gold or metallic effects (copper, brass, bronze) signal sophistication. Even for the low-priced segment, wonderful results can be created here. A Ferrero Rocher chocolate will always have more appeal than a mini-Toblerone, despite being about the same price. But the shiny wrapper dupes us into thinking it contains high quality chocolate.
  • Inside a shop, metallic colours are currently very much the trend, but used with subtlety only or for accessories or single décor elements. Yet when used for selected advertising spaces, anchor points, in a shop window or on small surfaces, glittering tones of gold - especially in combination with dark hues - can lure customers and charm them.

The power of colour

Colour has the wonderful ability to submerge a space in positive emotions, to emphasise a product, to underscore a brand. Therefore, colours can indeed create more attention for your shop and your products and generate more sales.

Moreover, it is the easiest, fastest and most budget-friendly way to change a space and to touch people. Therefore: Be courageous. And go for colour. It is the poetry of a space.

I do not object to the belief of being able to even feel colour;
that would attest even more to its inherent quality.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

About the author:

Stefan Suchanek is an aesthete, retail designer, consultant, speaker and lecturer in visual rhetorics, presentation and reasoning at the AMD Academy for Fashion & Design in Munich. He draws his expertise from knowledge of traditional design theory, evolutionary biology and brain science to design more interactive, intelligent and mindful business spaces and showrooms: spaces which bring forth a positive response, value people and boost sales by creating a lasting feeling of well-being through meaning and sensuality.