Tag Archives: colour preference

Consumer Colour Preferences

How does your personal colour preference affect the colour of the things that you buy?
It is well known that people prefer some colours more than others. Personally, I much prefer red to blue. But I am probably in a minority. Many studies have shown that blue is the most popular hue with yellow being one of the least popular hues. But this is when we think of colour in an abstract sense. But what about when colour is applied to a product: a pair of trousers, a toothbrush, a fidget spinner? Well, my favourite colour is red but I have never owned a pair of red trousers. I tend to buy buy blue or brown trousers even though I don’t really like the colour blue in the abstract sense. But are there products where, if we were presented with a choice in colour, we would tend to buy the colour product that matches our abstract colour preference? This is the question that I set out to answer answer two years ago with my colleague Meong Jin Shin. We carried out an experiment over the internet where we presented people with a choice of products in different colours and asked which they would buy given the choice. They were presented with images a little like the one below:

After we asked participants which product they would buy for a number of different products we then asked them what their favourite colour was in an abstract sense (we showed a number of colour patches on the screen and asked the to click on the one they liked best). Our hypothesis was that for some products participants would tend to select products that closely matched their most preferred abstract colours but that for some other products we would not find this.

This is exactly what we found. For some products, such as bodywash, we found that people tended to prefer a particular colour for the product (in this case, blue). The figure below shows the results for bodywash. The rows represent the colour of the products and the size of the circle in each row represents the proportion of people who generally preferred either red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple that selected that product colour. As you can see below the majority of people chose a blue bodywash no matter what their abstract colour preference was.

However, for the toothbrush product a very different picture emerged. As shown below, people who liked red generally tended to select a red toothbrush and people who preferred purple tended to select a purple toothbrush. For example, 41% of people who preferred green selected a green toothbrush.


So sometimes people’s personal colour preference could be used to predict which colour product they would choose to buy given the choice (and sometimes it couldn’t be). How could this be useful? Well, if we could predict which products where this is true then it would suggest that a multi-colour marketing strategy could be appropriate. Also, imagine you are in a supermarket and you are presented with an offer – 50% off toothbrushes today – and alongside this you see a red toothbrush. If red was your favourite colour then there might just be a little more chance you would accept the proposition. If a supermarket could predict a consumer’s personal colour preference …. [more of this in a later post].

This paper was published in 2015 in the Journal of the International Colour Association. You can read the full paper for free here.

Westland S & Shin M-J, 2015. The Relationship between Consumer Colour Preferences and Product-Colour Choices, Journal of the International Colour Association14, 47-56.

MRes Colour Communication

colour communication

We’re starting a new programme at Leeds University next September. It’s MRes Colour Communication. This is a one-year Masters programme by research but with a twist. There is a taught component in the first semester to get everyone up to speed to make sure they understand the basics of colour communication. They then explore one aspect of this in their research project and submit a dissertation at the end of the year. Please contact me at my University email of s.westland@leeds.ac.uk for further information or visit http://www.design.leeds.ac.uk/pg/research-degrees/.

AIC2014

logobig-full
As some of you may know, I was General Chair of AIC2013 this year. We had a great time in Newcastle and spent a week with over 600 delegates talking about colour. But time moves on and we are approaching 2014. I would therefore like to draw your attention to the next AIC meeting which is in Mexico in October 2014. The theme is colour and culture and the venue – Oaxaca – is stunning. I hope to see you there.

For further details visit http://www.aic2014.org/index_en.html

Colour survey

personal care products-1
I am currently carrying out some research using an on-line questionnaire about colour choices by consumers in product design. It would really help me a lot if you would take the survey. It only takes about 1 minute to complete. The link is http://questionpro.com/t/AKSnxZP9ij. Please feel free to share this link.

In a few weeks when the survey is completed you can come back to this page and you can see more details about what we were doing, why we were doing it, and what we found.

Steve

Survey about colour

University of Leeds Campus
University of Leeds Campus

I am very lucky to be working with Sea-hwa Won from South Korea who is here in Leeds for three years undertaking a PhD in colour design. Her PhD is about …. well, I can’t tell you that yet because it might influence the answers you give to her on-line survey. She has just launched an on-line survey about colour and product design and it would be great if you would help her research by clicking on the link below and completing the survey. Later, when the survey is complete I will say something about what the research is about.

Click here to take the colour survey. It only takes a minute of your time and for that you will receive the warm glow of satisfaction that you have contributed to the advancement of colour science.

Koreans hate pink!

About six months ago I posted about popular car colours in Canada. Silver and grey were the most popular colours according to sales data with black not far behind. I think it would be a rather similar story in the UK. Certainly silvery grey has become very popular over the last 10 years or so. My own car is black. My last car was grey. White is not popular here – I heard that car salesman refer to the colour of second-hand white cars as “three-week white” because it takes three weeks longer to sell them than cars in other colours. Though I think the last few years has seen a slight increase in the popularity of white cars in the UK.

Anyway, according to The Color Association of the United States nine out of ten cars sold in South Korea are white, silver (grey) or black – a higher proportion for these three colours than in any other country. Apparently, white cars have the highest resale value; white is associated with families and therefore white cars are thought to have been owned by responsible family types like me and therefore will have been well maintained. (My car is definitely not well maintained.)

It’s very unusual to see a pink car in Korea – only a rebellious type would have such a car! The Wall Street Journal are currently reporting a story about such a non-conformant and feature on a Mr Park who bought a white sports car and had it painted pink. Whereas in France, the Citreon DS3 has just been launched with a fuchsia pink roof. There still remains a cultural difference where social pressure in the east urges people to fit in whereas in the west it is more about “look at me”. A japanese person once told me there is a proverb about the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

Personally, I would love a pink car, though certainly not a Citreon. This story also reminds me that a web-based study suggests that the most frequently mis-spelled colour word in the English language is fuchsia – or is it fuschia?

colour preferences

Many studies have been carried out over the last century or so on colour preferences. These generally reveal some quite remarkable consistencies. For example, although there are individual differences, on average people tend to like cooler colours (blues and greens) more so than warmer colours. I have been conducting my own – just for fun – survey on these pages (see http://colourware.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/favourite-colour-poll/) for the last few months: I asked people which colour they would prefer out of green, brown, yellow, orange, black, red, pink, purple, white, grey, blue and other. So far 45% of respondents have selected blue or green.

Whether gender or cultural affect colour preferences is more controversial although many studies have indicated that they may. The most significant work I know of in this regard is that published in Current Biology (2007) by a team lead by Anya Hurlbert of Newcastle University that adds substantial weight to the idea that there are statistically significant differences in colour preferences between males and females. Hurlbert’s team found that females prefer redder blues (tending towards pinks and red) than males. It is also suggested that the gender differences result from biological rather than cultural factors. Perhaps evolution favoured females who were better able to discriminate between ripe and unripe fruit or who could better discriminate between colours of faces.

If you are interested in this you may like to take part in a new global colour survey being carried out by one of my PhD students. You can see the survey here – https://www.keysurvey.co.uk/survey/365495/1a02/

preferred colours

Many studies have been carried out over the last 50-100 years to look at which colours people like and which they don’t like. Although there is variability between individuals (not everyone likes the same colours) there is surprising consistency when the results of lots of different studies are compared. In short people like blues and greens and don’t like yellows and (to a lesser extent) reds. The hue parameter is probably the most important but brightness and colourfulness also affect colour preference. People tend to like brighter and more colourful colours than darker and less colourful ones. Just for fun, I have been running my own survey on this web site. You can still add your two-penneth worth if you like – please go to http://colourware.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/favourite-colour-poll/. Interestingly, my fun survey is also in broad agreement with all those previously published experiments. I found that people’s preferences were:

blue 19%
green 19%
purple 14%
red 11%
orange 8%
yellow 8%
pink 8%
black 4%
grey 4%
white 3%
brown 1%
other 1%

I am not sure what practical application there could be in knowing which colours are more popular. For example, my favourite colour is red but I probably wouldn’t want to buy a red coat. Though on average most people really like blue, this doesn’t mean it would be sensible to make a product blue without consideration of many other factors. In design, colour is almost always in context and that context makes all the difference in the world.

More interesting though is recent research I have read which proposes a reason why there is individual variation in colour preference. According to this idea, we like those colours that remind us of things that we like (we like blue skies and green grass). It could explain dark yellows and oranges are particularly unpopular; these colours are normally associated with some rather unsavoury things (dark orange is the colour of poo and dark yellow the colour of vomit). Further, if people have a strong affiliation with an idea/concept that is strongly associated with a colour, then they may have some preference bias towards that colour. It makes me think – I am a hug fan of Manchester United and red is my favourite colour; but do I like red because I like Manchester United or do I like Manchester United because I like red? I am too old to remember which came first.

favourite colour poll