The purpose of colours in signs . . .

Which colour? Depends what you’re trying to say.

How many times have you seen a sign or billboard and wondered how the designer chose the colours? How many times have you wondered if the choice was deliberate according to some scientifically-determined formula or simply reflected the designer’s mood that day? How many times have you wondered if the reason for the colour combination was to simply be funky or whether there was a deeper purpose?

Colour theory is a vast topic. In the business of marketing through signs and billboards, the use of colour is mostly very deliberate and according to a theory about how they impact viewers, a.k.a. targeted customers. This is something that should be of particular note to smaller sign shops who may not have the trained graphic designers big shops can afford to employ.

Marketers will tell you that colours should be chosen for their impact. For instance, red is an emotionally intense colour associated with energy, danger, strength, and power. Then there are subtle variations such as light red representing joy, sexuality, passion, sensitivity and love. Pink denotes love, romance and friendship. Dark red is associated with willpower, rage, courage and leadership.

And so it is for other often-used colours such as orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black and their variants. Each is associated with specific characteristics and therefore used for very specific reasons in designing signs and billboards.

The bottom line here is that if you own a small sign shop and are not a trained graphic artist and do not have one on staff, you have some colour research homework to do. Customers are entitled to expect their graphics printer to advise them on colours appropriate to the message they want to convey and the audience they want to target.