Color Associations

by Quinn Larson

Working in the color marketing department we deal with the science of color. Though it can get very technical –colorant composition, spectral color space, light sources and such, we find that understanding the emotional influence of color to be a greater challenge.

Though we constantly see color, we never see it completely alone. Color always accompanies something; the yellow skin of a lemon, white snow, a blue sky. Our brains make color pair associations in this fashion, and our personal experience dictates our reaction to it. Some color responses are hardwired in, but most are learned or experienced. If you love the taste, smell or feel of something you may be more likely to love the colors associated with it. It is in these ways that color marketers try to pair the right colors with the right products. Or, in our case, the right colors with the right people, rooms and styles. To do so we must have an understanding of common color associations and look and listen for cues that permit us into one’s mind.

Would a rose by any other color smell as sweet? Take a look at the rose image below.

Pair the rose number with what you feel is the best fit for the following words:

  • Exotic ___
  • Sweet ___
  • Fresh ___
  • Romantic ___
  • Sultry ___
  • Coy ___
  • Youthful ___
  • Cheery ___

Reflect for a minute why you placed the roses next to these categories. Did you put the white rose next to fresh? What about the red rose next to romantic? Which rose felt sweet to you? There is no right or wrong answer. Your rational for the color assignment is based on your own unique history of color associations.

When we are

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asked for color recommendations we look and listen for descriptive key words that will give us some insight into what the individual is looking for.

If someone asks for colors that will make their room, “warm, welcoming and bright,” we might recommend a scheme similar to this:

If the request was for something fresh, open and light, we would be thinking along these lines:

How about a room that was feminine, floral and cheery?

The next time you are looking for colors, ask yourself what you’d like to feel in the room. Think about what colors you associate with those feelings, and create combinations using their family members. Doing so will help you to create a room where you can feel your best.

Colorfully yours,


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