The Color Psychology of Brown

How Colors Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors

Brown Silk Fabric
Lumina Imaging/Getty Images

Notice how brown is used in the image above. How does brown make you feel? Do you associate brown with certain qualities or situations?

According to color psychology, colors can evoke psychological reactions and influence how people feel and behave. Brown tends to feel like a solid, earthy color, but it can sometimes seem drab and boring. Light browns such as beige are often used as neutrals in design and fashion.

While they can provide a conservative and traditional backdrop, these shades are often perceived as dull.

Color Psychology of the Color Brown

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

  • Brown is a natural color that evokes a sense of strength and reliability. It's often seen as solid, much like the earth, and it's a color often associated with resilience, dependability, security, and safety.
  • Brown can also create feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation. In large quantities, it can seem vast, stark, and empty, like an enormous desert devoid of life.
  • Brown brings to mind feelings of warmth, comfort, and security. It's often described as natural, down-to-earth, and conventional, but brown can also be sophisticated.

Brown in Feng Shui

In feng shui, a system of harmonizing your environment, each color correlates to a specific feng shui element. Brown represents either wood if it's dark and rick or earth if it's light.

Though it has an energetic, nurturing quality, brown should be used sparingly in your decorating and be well balanced with other colors to avoid a lack of ambition and drive. Blue is a good color to combine with brown because of the earth-water harmony.

Brown in Marketing

Color plays an important part in the psychology of marketing and branding and can influence people's perception of a brand's personality.

It's more important to pick a color that supports the personality of your brand than it is to try to instill certain feelings in potential customers since everyone has different experiences and opinions.

In branding and marketing, brown is associated with reliability, dependability, and nurturing. Popular brands that use brown in their logos and marketing include UPS, Hershey's, Cotton, Edy's, J.P. Morgan, and M&Ms.

A Preference for Brown

While there are generalities we can make about colors and what people associate with them, colors and our affinity toward them have a lot to do with our personalities, upbringing, environment, and experiences. One recent study on how adults perceive color according to the topic showed that more females than males chose brown as their overall favorite color, but it was still one of the three least favorite colors for both genders. However, when it comes to clothing, brown was chosen as the fifth favorite color out of 18 total colors, including no preference. Brown was the second color choice for both men and women for their living rooms and the fourth choice for their bedrooms.

Sources:

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

Ciotti G. The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding. Entrepreneur. Published April 13, 2016.

Taylor K. What Does the Color of Your Logo Say About Your Business? Entrepreneur. Published March 21, 2014.

Tchi R. How To Use Color Brown for Good Feng Shui. The Spruce. Updated May 15, 2017.

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