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Psychology of White

Updated on January 31, 2013
A white flower always imparts a sense of simplicity to a photograph.
A white flower always imparts a sense of simplicity to a photograph. | Source

What does white feel like to you?

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White is a perfectly balanced color, being clear and natural in its influence.

Although typically considered a cool color, white-like tones of ivory or cream can help warm up a chilly or vaulted space while brightening it up because of the lack of natural lighting. In storage areas (and this comes as no surprise), white is the best color choice... removing distractions and shadows by employing the brightest "color" makes a lot of sense.

Because of these reasons, white works especially well in packaging, signage, or other usages where it needs to catch the eye.

White and black signage is one of the clearest to read.
White and black signage is one of the clearest to read. | Source

Modern American Color Associations

Color
General Appearance
Mental Associations
Direct Associations
Objective Impressions
Subjective Impressions
White
Spatial - light
Cool, snow
Cleanliness
Pure, clean, frank, youthful
Brightness of spirit, normality
Table data from "Color Psychology and Color Therapy" by Faber Birren, color specialist and researcher.
White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design
White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design

Understanding the use of white space in graphics is invaluable when it comes to good design.

 

Using White in Marketing

White imparts products with a sense of directness, simplicity, and immaculate purity. So, for baby products or merchandise involving personal hygiene or one's health, white is the perfect way to get that message across.

White can also bring up a mental image of sterility and cleanliness, which is another reason why it is used for products for infants.

When white is used in print, however, the stark and sharp impression can give way to a generic, "no-frills" look if it is not gussied up with either some type of texture or graphics.

White as Silver

If one were to add a metallic sheen to white, the result would be silver. Words that describe silver are:

  • classic
  • cool
  • expensive
  • money
  • valuable
  • futuristic

The Feelings of White

Other words that describe white include :

  • innocent
  • silent
  • lightweight
  • airy
  • glistening

These (and the ones describing silver) are exciting words to describe color, and they give the person who views these colors hope and a sense of clarity, which is certainly important to have.

Fiesta 10-1/2-Inch Dinner Plate, White
Fiesta 10-1/2-Inch Dinner Plate, White

Serve your meals on these white plates and enjoy your food even more.

 

Decorating with White

A vast expanse of white in general usage can create a plain of starkness -- without warmth or a sense of welcome. But who wants to live in a plain white room?

When decorating with white, add your favorite color to break up that vastness. It doesn't have to be a bright shade; even opaque curtains or pale pillows can soften the harsh glare of an all-white space.

If you want to keep the space cool, add blue, green, or purple; to warm up a room, choose yellow, orange, or the warmest color of all... red. A "pop" of color can make or break the decor of a room.

Or, employ off-white tones to warm up the place... a creamy white is just right for a dining area as food will reflect its true essence in a bright, clean place. Alternatively, a sugary or vanilla white color can suggest light, pleasant flavors and scents.

White represents purity.
White represents purity. | Source

Facts About White

  • In ancient heraldry, white represents faith and purity
  • White (and black) are standard for traffic control
  • Corners and baseboards painted in white may be used to discourage littering
  • Food looks more appetizing on a white plate as its colors appear more true
  • White and black are the colors that attract babies' attention because of the extreme contrast of the two.

Resources

Amber, Reuben, Color Therapy. Aurora Press, New York, 1983.

Birren, Faber, Color Psychology and Color Therapy. Citadel Publishing, New York, 1950

http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/pantone.aspx?pg=20634&ca=10

http://printmediacentr.com/2011/02/infographic-the-psychology-of-color-for-web-design/

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    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks, tillsont! Classics never go out of style, and white is no exception. Thanks do much for commenting; I always enjoy seeing you around. :-)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Nicely done. White, obviously, is always a good choice as it goes with anything. Pure yet classic!

      Voted this up and useful.

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hiya, teaches! Thank you so much... this one really is gentle and I like white so much. I had no idea that cream is considered warming, though. Ya learn something every day, I guess. :^) Thanks for commenting!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Well done, I always enjoy your posts in this series. White makes me think of fresh snow -- I do miss seeing the brilliance and pureness of snow. Thanks for the beautiful post and the meaning of white you have given us.

    • theclevercat profile image
      Author

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, CC!

      Me too! I love white kitchens. I'm going to paint my cabinets white, but keep a color on the walls. Let's share before and afters when we get around to the projects. Deal? :^)

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Cool! As I was reading, the fact that "white" brightens a room got me thinking...I really need to paint my kitchen white. Right now it has browns and reds and is completely drab and dark (I didn't paint it...the people who lived here before me did). I've been thinking for awhile how I was going to remodel my kitchen on a budget and the color white is on the list, haha. Thanks for sharing this. :)

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