Off Color

Is your office puce and avocado green? You need some help-and here it is.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the June 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

See red-and you instantly think heat, danger, stop. Visualize blue-and the ocean, blue skies and other calming images come to mind.

Whether you're aware of it or not, colors evoke an array of complex sentiments in our minds every second of the day. And using these nonverbal cues to your advantage-whether in marketing materials or displays in your store-will surely benefit your business, customers and employees. Granted you understand which colors evoke which particular emotions, that is.

Know The Code

While no single color officially promotes productivity in the workplace, there are some general guidelines to follow. First, your color choices "depend on your service. [They] should fit your personality," says color expert Pat Verlodt of Color Services and Associates Inc. in Huntley, Illinois. For example, a creative or visual business-like a Web design or interior decorating firm-should incorporate bright, bold colors in the office. Conservative service providers like accounting firms, on the other hand, should stick with subtle tones like deep greens, olives and burgundies. Says Verlodt, "Navy blue is good, because it's a very trustworthy color."

Speaking of blue, "You can never go wrong with blue," Verlodt says. "Blue is most often selected as a favorite color. It's very easy on the eye." And depending on your business, you can use a light, cool blue to create a tranquil and ethereal mood (great for an aromatherapist or masseuse). A darker blue would work well in a law office, where you want to project an image of seriousness and organization.

Palate Pleasers

When it comes to enticing the appetites of potential patrons, it's not just aroma, but also color that will convince passersby to pop in and ponder your menu. Depending on the environment restaurateurs want to create, certain color hues will coax patrons to sit down and linger-or motivate them to quickly run in, grab a bite and scram.

According to Leatrice Eiseman, author of Colors For Every Mood (Capital Books), the colors that make customers want to hang around are luxurious, deep jewel tones like amethyst, amber, ruby and emerald. Creating an upscale yet comfortable environment engages patrons' senses and makes them less reluctant to leave a place that should feel more intriguing than home.

If the goal, however, is for hungry visitors to eat up and scoot out, then brighter shades are necessary. "For the fast-food environment, it's a matter of value and intensity," adds Eiseman. "The bright and warm color families of yellow, red and orange give off that stimulation factor and produce the feeling of movement."

Set The Mood

If, however, keeping teens glued to your Web site is the goal, consider the colors preferred by this young yet influential audience.

As part of a Web activity study conducted by Cheskin Research and, 2,579 teen surfers were asked to reveal their attitudes toward color on the Web. Gaining the most positive response was the color blue, where words such as "success," "intelligent," "trusted" and "welcoming" were offered in praise of the hue. Least favorite was the color black-although haughtily described as "high-tech," teens considered black mostly "complicated" and "outdated". Yellow conveyed "playfulness" and "ease," green communicated "wealth," and red evoked "speed" and "warmth."

As for the middle-aged demographic (ages 45-65), Samuelle Easton of Samuelle Easton and Associates in New York City, believes that strong, medium-toned colors, like "true blue", "American Beauty rose" and emerald green are the most respectable. So, even though you may consider bright neons eye-catching, steer clear of those if adults make up your target audience, Easton insists. "Color conveys the message faster than anything else we do," she says. "It's stronger than words and faster than speech. It's a language all in itself."

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