The Psychology of Color and Packaging Label Design

Did you ever think about the fact that color has meaning? And that the meaning comes to us through our families, through our culture, and through our own experiences? No color means the same thing to everyone, but anyone involved in packaging label design knows that color has meaning and those meanings change from culture to culture, as well as from individual to individual. In truth, color has its own psychology.

Color Psychology

Marketers understand that the psychology of color plays an important role in how a product or service is viewed. Think about the red and yellow colors of McDonald’s or the colors on a Campbell’s soup can. In fact, the Campbell’s colors were so instrumental to the branding of Campbell’s soups that Andy Warhol created an art world splash when he did his famous painting of those cans. What does this mean? It means that by understanding the importance of color in packaging and marketing, companies can maximize their brand’s impact on consumers.


Red represents power, speed, and strength. It is also one of the boldest colors, making a product stand out among the competition. The Coca-Cola logo is probably the best known example of red color packaging. Red is also associated with sex, which is why red lettering is often used with adult relationship items. Additionally, red is the color most aligned with impulse buying.


Orange is often linked to playfulness and warmth. It also represents vitality, perhaps due to its connection to the fruit with the same name. Tropicana uses a lot of orange in its packaging, emphasizing both the branding of the fruit and the warmth of sunshine. Orange is also affiliated with adventure and self-confidence, which is why it may be linked to the famous black-and-orange Harley-Davidson logo.


Green symbolizes nature and the environment. Students of the psychology of color and packaging label design often use green to attract the interest of energy-conscious consumers. Starbucks chose green and white for its logo deliberately to appeal to consumers who were upwardly mobile and environmentally aware.


In marketing, black represents sophistication and class, enhancing the perception of increased value and higher quality. Studies have shown that many impulse purchases are made for items that have a great deal of black in their packaging. Stores that sell Monster energy drinks (that have a distinctive label with a black background) report higher impulse sales of these products compared to the competition, even when the competition is displayed in the same area.


White represents cleanliness, simplicity, and clarity of thought. It simultaneously creates the impression of being both warm and sterile. Steve Jobs made sure that the color white became synonymous with many of the most successful Apple products.


Blue represents trust and reliability. While darker blue signals professional overtones, lighter blue is often linked with creativity and newness. Perhaps for this reason the ubiquitous Energy Star logo is light blue and white, creating an impression of trust, reliability, and creativity.


Understanding the psychology of color is the foundation for effective packaging and label design. Then, knowing how best to combine colors in that design increases your product’s marketing value and success. By combining different colors, you are able to custom design your message without even saying a single word.

FrontPage Image provided by Shutterstock

FrontPage Image:brain & blue bokeh abstract light background via Shutterstock