The Color Psychology of White

How Colors Impact Moods, Feelings and Behaviors

color psychology of white
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Look at the image that accompanies this article and consider how the color makes you feel. Do you feel inspired or refreshed, or does it leave you feeling cold and lonely? Many people find white serene and pure, while others feel that it's stark and cold.

Color Associations Are Not Universal

One thing to remember is that such color associations are not necessarily universal. Colors can have different meanings, symbolism, and associations in other cultures.

In Western cultures, the color white is often associated with weddings, hospitals, and angels and is often used to convey a sense of purity, cleanliness, and peacefulness. In many Eastern cultures, however, white is symbolically linked to death and sadness. It's often a color used in funerals and other mourning rituals.

The Color Psychology of White

According to color psychology, these are the characteristics of white:

  • White represents purity or innocence. While a bride wearing white was often thought to convey the bride's virginity, blue was once a traditional color worn by brides to symbolize purity.
  • White is bright and can create a sense of space or add highlights. Designers often use the color white to make rooms seem larger and more spacious.
  • White is also described as cold, bland, and sterile. Rooms painted completely white can seem spacious, but empty and unfriendly. Hospitals and hospital workers use white to create a sense of sterility.
  • Some of the positive meanings that white can convey include cleanliness, freshness, and simplicity. The color white often seems like a blank slate, symbolizing a new beginning or a fresh start.
  • On the negative side, white can seem stark, cold, and isolated. Consider how a large, white, empty room might seem boring, bland, and stark.

    White in Feng Shui

    White is considered a powerful color in feng shui, a system of arranging your environment to create harmony. Colors are linked to certain feng shui elements and in the case of white, the element it expresses is metal. Wood and glass accents go extraordinarily well with white, as do bits of black to balance it out. White is also great for kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms and white flowers in white pots are an economical way to incorporate white into your environment.

    White in Marketing

    In marketing and branding, white is used to convey a feeling of safety, purity, freshness, and cleanliness, as well as to create contrast. Some famous brands that use a great deal of white in their logos and marketing are Michelin, Gap, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Lego, Volkswagen, Starbucks, Fisher-Price, Levi's, and Ford.

    A Preference for White

    One recent study on adults' color preferences showed that out of 18 total colors, including no preference, white only ranked fifteenth as the overall favorite color. It fared a little better when the same adults were asked to rank their favorite color in clothing, coming in at tenth. When asked to choose their favorite colors for the physical environment, white was overwhelmingly the number one favorite for all the listed rooms: living rooms, bedrooms, offices, and meeting rooms.

    White was also ranked number one for evoking moods of quietness and concentrated.

    Sources:

    Bakker I, van der Voordt T, Vink P, de Boon J, Bazley C. Color preferences for different topics in connection to personal characteristicsColor Research and Application. February 2015;40(1):62–71. doi:10.1002/col.21845.

    Cohn M, Bromell M. The 50 Most Iconic Brand Logos of All Time. Complex. Published March 7, 2013.

    Tchi R. Easy Feng Shui Tips: Decorate Your House with White. The Spruce. Updated October 3, 2017.