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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Colour psychology: Back to Black

Colour Psychology: Black (with a black cat in the background)

Black. It’s the colour associated with power, elegance, magic and fear. It can be spooky, or classic, and can be used to represent a whole spectrum of meanings in bold and powerful ways. In this colour psychology series, we’ll discover why the colour black is significant in our daily lives and how we engage with this colour subliminally.

Positive associations

Black is very bold, but that is certainly not a bad thing. It is a colour that makes a very powerful and striking mark and can give a feeling of superiority and strength. I find it fascinating when I see a brand’s logo in black, whether it’s used for its elegance, power or for its strong presence, it can easily resonate these characteristics of the brand.

Delving further into black’s perception, it is used for more than denoting power and is equally used for its classic and elegant appeal. In fashion, the well-known ‘little black dress’ is considered stylish, and in some ways, seen as more lavish than a colourful dress.

Black and white image of a lady wearing a black dress and black hat

Negative associations

In complete contrast to Black’s positive associations, the colour black can have an unwelcoming and threatening feel. It’s no shock that the colour is used to represent death, and the custom of wearing black to a funeral goes back to the Roman Empire. This tradition began when Romans wore dark togas as a symbol of their mourning and is still a tradition that is very much still used today in Western culture.

The connection between the colour black and death is even reflected in our present-day terms and is used to describe comedy of a taboo nature. Dark comedy, or black comedy, is a comedic style that uses serious subject matters, such as pain or death, as the core focus to base its humour.

In other terms, ‘Black magic’ is used to reflect evil magic, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the term ‘Dark arts’, as seen and heard in Harry Potter films and books. In other cinematic references, most ‘evil’ characters or villains are portrayed wearing black clothing.

Hacker wearing black clothes

Black Brands

Putting associations to one side, the colour black is the text colour used in all important documentation, as it has the highest contrast against white, meaning it is extremely legible. You will notice that most government websites, and materials, use this combination due to its clarity.

In branding, a black logo can look elegant, yet powerful, and is used for its clean, strong and no-frills look. The choice of colour for a brand can have a powerful effect. It is the first aspect that people see in a logo and, as we have discovered, this can have a powerful effect on how people interpret and understand your brand.

Below is a collection of 10 leading brands that use Black to their advantage. It can be summarised that all of these share some similar characteristics; they’re all bold and direct, depict quality and are confident in their personalities – perhaps resonant of the ‘little black dress’ persona?

Companies using black in their logos: Adidas, Nike, Apple, Chanel, Paul Smith, Mini, Puma

Black Facts

  1. Seeing a black cat crossing your path is considered lucky in some Eastern and Western cultures.

  2. Songwriters, such as Amy Winehouse, have incorporated the colour ‘black’ into their lyrics to help emulate a mood. The song titled ‘Black to Black’ refers to drinking and depression.

  3. The term ‘black-hearted’ refers to someone who is wicked or evil.

  4. A black belt is a belt worn by a Martial Arts expert.

Have you got more black facts? Share your stories with us.

Interested in learning more about branding? We’re all ears. Get in touch, and let’s chat about developing your brand together (starting with the colour, of course).

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