Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Arby’s, and McDonald’s are just a few of the hundreds of fast food chains that have one thing in common that many people are not aware of and that has a proven dramatic effect on their actions as a consumer. The color red. Red has long been associated with the feeling of excitement that consumers have before making an impulsive decision. This has led to its adoption as the first color choice for fast food restaurants looking for a quick way to entice their audience into a meal; and if you need evidence of its effectiveness, look for a fast food joint without red as one of its primary colors, and that should settle the matter. With a basic example of color psychology out of the way, we can now look at how it might be applied to user design.

When designing with the user in mind, it’s important to understand the context in which the user will be interacting with the interface you are creating as well as what the users’ intentions for interacting with that interface are.

One thing you can do to help take some of the guesswork out of this situation is by making a scenario map to visualize and better understand the scenarios your design product will or could be consumed in a real-world setting. By understanding the intents and emotions driving your users to go to your interface you can begin to develop your color scheme.

With an understanding of what your user is feeling coming into the application, you can create a design pattern that matches those feelings and helps make the user feel comfortable or try to bully the user into dropping those feelings and absorbing those brought forth by your color scheme. For example, if you are a life insurance salesmen and know your users are usually walking into your office skeptical of your sales pitch and just looking for the best deal, you can employ color psychology.  You could use some tones of yellow in your display to get users stimulated with the importance of having high quality (and cost) life insurance and then use a green pattern when finalizing the sale to encourage a sense of comfort.

This is where we should take a step back for a moment and make sure it’s obvious that colors don’t drive all interactions in the world, but instead evoke natural emotional responses that can be harnessed to nudge a user into accepting our sales pitch or enjoying our display. What’s more is that the emotions these colors bring about change, depending on the context they are presented in including what other colors they are accompanied by and what culture the colors are shown in. All is not lost though, for the savvy UX designer wishing to use colors effectively as Cameron Chapman points out in her “The Role of Color in UX” article, there are a lot of different applications for color psychology in UX development, but having a deep understanding of the basics like what emotions are evoked by what colors and in which cultures can be an invaluable tool in UX design.