How do I choose colors that create the intended emotional response?


To select colors that evoke the right emotional response and align with your brand's identity, start by understanding color psychology. Colors significantly influence user perception and emotions. Consider your brand’s personality, target audience demographics, and the app’s purpose. For instance, blues and greens might convey reliability for a finance app, while a creative app could use bold, vibrant colors.

Research and testing are essential. Choose a primary color that reflects the app’s emotional tone, select complementary colors, ensure accessibility, and test your color scheme with users to gather feedback and validate your choices.

Deep dive

The process of choosing colors is deeply rooted in color psychology. Colors carry psychological and emotional associations that shape how users perceive digital products. According to a study, customers make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with digital products, and about 62% to 90% of the judgments are based on color.

How to choose colors that evoke the right emotions

  • Define your app's purpose and target audience: What kind of experience do you want to create? Who are you designing for? Understanding these factors will inform your color choices.
  • Identify the desired emotions: Do you want users to feel energized and motivated (e.g., fitness app)? Calm and focused (e.g., meditation app)? Trusting and secure (e.g., financial app)?
  • Research the psychology of color: Based on the desired emotions, explore color associations and psychological effects. Consider cultural variations in color meanings.
  • Align color harmony with contrast: Choose colors that complement each other and create a visually pleasing experience. Ensure sufficient contrast for accessibility.
  • Test your color scheme with users and gather feedback to validate your choices and make iterative improvements.

To understand the emotional associations of different colors, check out this resource.

Color psychology chart with color associations.

How real applications choose their color schemes

The emotional impact of the color goes in connection with the cultural context in which your product will be used. Understanding how different cultures perceive and respond to colors can bridge the gap between your design choices and the emotional response you want to receive from your users. 

Here are a few examples of brands using specific colors to evoke particular emotions from users in Western cultures.

Yellow is usually associated with warmth, happiness, and optimism. Snapchat chose yellow as the primary branding color. Happiness and optimism are the main product drivers.

Snapchat interfaces with the app's branding color - yellow.


Blue is commonly linked to calmness, trust, and professionalism, often carrying authoritative and conservative connotations. Here's how Cieden used blue in a sustainable property investment app. We incorporated it as an accent color to evoke trust and convey a sense of professionalism.

Interfaces from the property investment platform featuring blue color.

👋 View the case study 

Green symbolizes nature, growth, and harmony. Here's an example of how our team at Cieden used this association in an eLearning interactive training tool. We chose a turquoise accent color to represent growth, self-development, and harmony.

Interface from the interactive training tool featuring green color.

👋 View the case study 

The last example is a meditation app. Our team chose calming shades of blue, purple, red, and green to create a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.

Interface from the meditation app featuring purple and blue colors.

👋 View the case study 

Other notable product examples

Facebook uses a soothing shade of blue as its accent color to promote trust and security among its users. Contrary to popular belief, the original choice of blue wasn't definitively due to Mark Zuckerberg being red-green colorblind. In 2021, Facebook rebranded to Meta, focusing on the development of the Metaverse. The new logo retains the familiar blue but presents it more vibrantly and dynamically.

LinkedIn uses blue to convey a sense of professionalism, stability, and trustworthiness. These qualities are essential for a platform centered on professional networking and career development.

Airbnb's primary color is red, symbolizing warmth, hospitality, and a passion for adventures. This evokes a sense of welcome and comfort, aligning with Airbnb's mission to connect people with unique homes.

Amazon's call-to-action buttons are orange, which creates a sense of urgency, dynamism, and possibility. This color aligns with Amazon's vast selection of products and the dynamic shopping experience. Orange also conveys warmth and approachability, crucial for building customer trust.

Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

  • Using too many colors, which can create visual clutter and confusion.
  • Selecting colors with poor contrast or that are not accessible, which makes it difficult for some users to read or interact with the application.
  • Ignoring cultural differences and color associations psychology, leading to unintended negative impressions.
  • Failing to test color choices with users, resulting in a misalignment between the intended emotional impact and actual user perceptions.
  • Not documenting or maintaining a consistent color scheme, which leads to inconsistencies in the user experience.

How to convince stakeholders

One of the most crucial skills for a designer is being able to explain and back up their ideas. If you're having a hard time convincing stakeholders, take a look at our tips to help you communicate better.

  • Share relevant color psychology studies and research papers that demonstrate the impact of color on user emotions, perceptions, and behaviors.
  • Provide examples of successful applications or brands that effectively use color to convey their desired emotional tone and engage users.
  • Conduct user research or surveys to gather data on your target audience's color preferences and associations, and present these findings to stakeholders.
  • Create visual mockups or prototypes that showcase how the proposed color scheme enhances the user experience and aligns with the application's brand personality.
  • Emphasize the potential business benefits of creating an emotionally resonant user experience, such as increased user engagement, better brand recognition, and higher conversion rates.
  • Address any concerns or objections stakeholders may have, such as accessibility issues or cultural considerations, and provide solutions or alternatives.


Our content combines the knowledge of Cieden’s designers with insights from industry influencers. Big thanks to all the influencers for sharing awesome content!

Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color by Cameron Chapman

Keep exploring 

Never stop growing 🤓 Explore resources thoughtfully handpicked by Cieden’s designers. 

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