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Custom Patches and the Psychology of Color

Published Mar 23, 2023 by Rick Cundiff


You know custom patches can help promote your business. Maybe you even have a design in mind. That’s great. Do you know how to use color to maximize the positive impact your patches can have?

It’s not hard to design a good looking custom patch, whether embroidered, woven or PVC. But to really get the best results from your design, it pays to give some thought to the psychology of color.

Say what? Yes, colors can affect people’s emotions and behavior.

Choose the right color and people are more likely to respond positively to your brand. Choose the wrong color and you might get no response – or worse, create negative feelings toward your organization or logo.

Let’s take a look at how color psychology can affect perceptions.

The Importance of Color in Branding.

We might not be conscious of it, but all of us are influenced by color every day. Pop quiz: What color is the Campbell’s Soup logo? What color are UPS delivery trucks? What were your high school or college team colors?

I’m guessing you answered all three of those within about 3 seconds, yes? (Just in case you don’t buy Campbell’s or ship via UPS, those answers are red and white, and brown, respectively.)

See what an impression color can make? Color makes a brand memorable. Let’s say I ask you to name the big box discount department store with the red and white logo. You’re likely to answer Target. On the other hand, if I ask you to name the big box discount department store with the blue and yellow logo, you’d probably say Walmart.

But why does that happen?

The Biology of Color

Scientists who have studied color psychology have discovered that color can capture our attention even before we’re consciously aware of it. We’ve evolved a sense of what certain colors mean over many generations.

For example, one theory suggests early man might have associated the bright yellow of sunlight with activity and energy. On the opposite side, the dark blue of a night sky could signal a passive tranquility.

How color affects us isn’t limited to just what we see, however. Other factors, such as conditioning and gender bias contribute as well.

For example, from birth we tend to associate the color pink with girls and blue with boys. That can lead to a preference of those colors, or variations of them, with the specified gender. But that’s not always the case.

Another theory holds that we make connections between related things in our memories, and that affects our feelings toward them. For example, you might associate the color green with springtime, or perfectly maintained lawns, or a golf course or a great forest.

Those connections can prompt you to think of green as a peaceful, calm color. If, however, you’re in a car that’s struck by a green SUV, your feelings toward the color might change, at least toward certain shades of it.

Common Reactions to Some Colors

Generally speaking, there are common interpretations of many colors. Here are a few examples:

Red is a power color, bold and energetic. It implies passion, excitement, urgency. Excellent for sports patches.

Orange is an enthusiastic color, signifying creativity and warmth. Very popular on patches for younger children’s teams.

Yellow is bright and cheerful, sunny if you will. It promotes optimism and energy.

Black represents sophistication and power. An elegant, formal look.

Blue is a calming color, showing trustworthiness and stability. Some marketers consider it the safest color to use anywhere. Often used in bank logos and law enforcement or military patches.

Green also is a calming color, commonly associated with nature and growth. Popular with environmental or eco-friendly causes.

Purple is best known as the color of wealth and nobility. Because purple dye was rare and expensive before modern chemical dyes were invented, it became the color of royalty.

White traditionally symbolizes purity, cleanliness and simplicity. But that’s not always the case, as we’ll see next.

Different Cultures, Different Perceptions

How a color is perceived depends on where it’s found. While the above characterizations are generally accurate for the United States, other countries and cultures often view them differently.

Take white, for example. In Western countries, it’s traditional for bridal wear. However, in some Asian countries, it can symbolize mourning and death and is worn only for funerals.

By the same token, black, often worn as a sophisticated power color at galas and awards events in the United States, typically is not worn at happy occasions in China.

A green hat, ever popular in the U.S. on St. Patrick’s Day, can be seen as a symbol of an unfaithful spouse in China.

Yellow can have contradictory meanings as well. While Americans (and others) see it positively, in France it can symbolize jealousy, weakness or betrayal. Unless it’s being worn by the leader of the Tour de France.

In China, a “yellow book” means pornography. Yet yellow is also a color of Chinese royalty. In Egypt, it can be a sign of mourning.

The bottom line is that it pays to be aware of your customer and your market when choosing your colors.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Patches

The key to choosing the right colors for your brand is to be aware of how colors interact, and how people interact with color.

The right color makes your brand stand out among competitors. If it’s easily recognizable, customers make the positive association with your brand immediately.

Complementary and contrasting colors are important. Complementary color offer a sense of harmony. Contrasting accents add a “pop” that people notice. Something that stands out from the rest is a vivid reinforcement.

There’s no reason to fear using color for your patches or any other marketing materials. With just a little bit of research, you can maximize the appeal of your patches, and your brand. Our trained staff is always happy to help you select the perfect color combinations to make your custom patches look their best. Call or email us to find out more.