Purple Haze: Regal, Sophisticated and Contradictory

We all dream in color. Every design concept and sketch comes with some sort of color association. But what do those colors mean? What associations are we making just with that choice alone?

Purple is a color of many emotions and contradictions. It combines the attributes of red and blue to form a shade that is most often linked to royalty and spirituality.

SEE ALSO: Tips on Using White Backgrounds in Website Design

Here we take a look at purple – meanings, color pairings and sites that are doing it well. Purple is the only primary (red, yellow, blue) or secondary (also orange and green) color to not have extremely close associations to the natural world or nature because aside from a handful of flowers and fruits it is not commonly found. Because of this, some people consider the color to be artificial.

Purple is most often linked to royalty. The color combines the best attributes of blue – stability – and red – energy – to convey a meaning of wealth, wisdom, luxury and extravagance.  Purple is also linked to other “artificial” things such as mystery and magic. The color can take on a host of meanings from both red (passion, instability, indulgence, courage) and blue (faith, sensitivity, awareness, inspiration) as well.

Shades of Purple

Lukáš Strnadel

Lukáš Strnadel

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One Mighty Roar

One Mighty Roar

Fuel Brand Inc

Fuel Brand Inc

Purple or violet can have many effects on a person’s emotions. The color can be seen as uplifting and calming or it can encourage creativity and free thought. Purple also creates a sense of introspectiveness and is often linked to religion and spirituality.

The most reddish purples (fuchsia) are considered warmer and brighter while more blue hues (indigo) are cooling and calming.

Purple has a universal appeal when it comes to men and women. Darker, bluer hues are often seen as more masculine, while lighter, more reddish hues are feminine. The color has been found in scientific circles to be the most preferred color to children.

Purple is often used with its counterpart on the color wheel – yellow or gold – to further emphasize its regal associations. Purple and gold are the colors of kings throughout history and in many movies. The colors are also used together to portray magic. (One of the most recognizable examples is Mickey Mouse in the 1940 Walt Disney animated classic “Fantasia.”) Further, the combination of purple and yellow is seen to be happy and uplifting and can be often found on the packaging for toys or games.

Dark and light purples are used in a variety of ways in design. Dark shades can be used to backgrounds, accents and even text while lighter hues are often used just as backgrounds. While many designers seemed to shy away from the color for a while, more companies and websites are incorporating more of the color into their primary design and color scheme. But you will rarely see it used by food companies because it is thought to suppress the appetite.

Dark purple: The darkest purples are most associated with royalty and can sometimes seem mellow or sad.

Light purple: Lighter hues are favored by women, especially teenage girls, and can create emotional responses that are nostalgic and romantic in nature.

Cultural Considerations

Purple

In the United States, purple represents courage. The Purple Heart is awarded to military members who are wounded are killed in service to the country.

In Christianity, purple is the color of Advent and Lent. Pale hues in combination with yellow are linked to the Easter holiday.

In Thailand, it is a color of mourning as a widow will wear purple after the death of her husband.

In Egypt, purple represents faith and virtue and in Tibet the color is considered sacred and is linked to Buddha.

Color Wheel and Pairing

Purple is a secondary color on the color wheel, meaning it is made by combining two primary colors. (The other secondary colors are green and orange.) Purple is formed by mixing blue and red. Even more shades can be created with the additions of white or black.

You can use the color wheel to create color schemes of multiple hues that can create a sense of harmony or chaos. Create a scheme using three side-by-side colors for an analogous scheme – indigo, purple and red-purple (or fuchsia). A complementary scheme pairs purple and yellow (opposites on the wheel).

Famous Brand Associations

Some very prominent and well-known world brands use purple as a part of their color scheme or corporate logo. Yahoo! Crown Royal, Nexium and the pop star Prince are all linked to purple.

Deep royal colors are often used as backgrounds on corporate websites. For others purple is used more sparingly, serving primarily as an accent color or for the company logo or brand. Too much purple can create a sense of unease or discontent, much the opposite of what these brands want to represent.

Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers

Crown Royal

Crown Royal

Yahoo!

Yahoo

LSU Sports

LSU Sports

Doing it Well

Full Fat Studios

Full Fat Studios

This website takes full advantage of the majestic qualities of purple, using it as an effective background tool.

Purple Cow Websites

Purple Cow

Purple is used sparingly, but it almost jumps off the page because of the way it contrasts with the rest of the site. (It matches perfectly with the tagline “stand out from the crowd.”)

Martin Balhar

Martin Balhar

Purple is used as an accent here to feel special and quite regal. Think of how different the site would feel using green or blue.

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Not only does Cadbury do a good job maintaining its brand identity through color but this is an impressive site full of fun animations and features – all using the same purple theme with injections of other colors.

Carrie Cousins has more than 10 years experience in the communications industry, including writing for print and online publications, and design and editing. You can connect with her on Twitter @carriecousins and Google+.

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2 Comments
  1. Salavat Abdullin Sep 6, 10:57 pm

    One more example of the successful use purple color: http://denisvlasov.ru/

    Reply
    +1
  2. Tarek Sep 10, 6:17 pm

    I recently re-designed my website in purple, or aubergine as I like to call it: http://www.technotarek.com/. At least it starts in purple and then it “color shifts”.

    Reply
    0

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