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Colour psychology and the King’s portrait: the furore

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which just can’t be comfortable), you’ll definitely have heard about the uproar caused by the King’s portrait. It’s certainly kept the newspapers busy! The portrait, now famously depicted in a blood-red hue is reminiscent of the haunting portrait from Ghostbusters; not the most flattering of comparisons, is it? Red, known for its associations with passion, aggression, and power, has stirred strong emotions and more than a handful of intense opinions. While red can symbolise strength and authority, its excessive use in the painting has many conjuring images of violence and turmoil instead. 

The emotions that this painting has managed to evoke shows just how important colour choice is in art and design, and therefore in branding too. So, why do we react this way to certain colours? Grab your pens and notebooks folks, we’re going to be talking all things colour psychology today!  


What is colour psychology? 

Before we get too deep in the details, let’s have a quick colour psychology 101. Colour psychology is all about how different hues can influence our feelings and actions. The way we see colours can spark certain responses, shaping our moods and the way we interact with the world.  

For example, the colour red might make us feel excited or even a bit angry (case and point with the King’s portrait!), while blue tends to bring out feelings of calmness or sometimes sadness. By understanding these connections, artists and designers can use colours to send the right message and encourage specific emotions in their audience. Pretty nifty, isn’t it? 


What colours would we suggest for the King’s portrait? 

Whilst there are reasons why the King’s portrait was done in red – he’s wearing the red coat of the Welsh Guards, the regiment he became regimental colonel of in 1975 – the excessive use of the colour has got plenty of people’s backs up.  

In fact, words used to describe it have included, bloodbath, angry, hellish, and fire; not exactly words you want to spring to mind when thinking of the King! What do you feel when you look at the red image? We can definitely understand why many people feel uneasy about it. 

“What colours would we have suggested instead?” we hear you cry! Well, we might have gone for: 


Purple has long been associated with royalty, luxury, and sophisticationwe’d say that’s fit for a King! Historically, it was a colour that was very much reserved for the elite, symbolising wealth and power. A portrait featuring shades of purple can communicate a sense of dignity and grandeur, fitting for a royal figure. This colour conveys opulence and respect, creating an aura of authority without the overly aggressive overtones of red. 


Blue is another excellent choice for a royal portrait. This colour is often associated with trust, loyalty, and stability. It provides a sense of calm and dependability, essential qualities for a unifying leader. Plus, in this instance, blue cleverly connects well with national symbols like the Union Jack, reinforcing a sense of patriotism and unity. A portrait in blue can communicate a serene, wise, and steadfast image. 

Case Studies: Brands who have nailed their colours  


McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC 

Fast food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC cleverly use red to stimulate appetite and create a sense of urgency. Red’s association with energy and excitement makes it perfect for enticing customers to indulge quickly… we’re getting hungry just thinking about it! 


Starbucks and Cadbury 

Starbucks’ use of green symbolises growth and relaxation, enhancing its brand image as a place for unwinding. Perfect considering many of us opt for a coffee or a hot drink in general to relax and treat ourselves. On the other hand, Cadbury’s iconic purple packaging conveys luxury and indulgence, aligning with its premium chocolate offerings. It’s one of the most well-known chocolate brands, and many of us will happily pay a little extra to choose it over its competitors thanks to that well known packaging we love so much. 



Hallmark uses purple to appeal to its predominantly female audience and convey a sense of sophistication and emotional depth, very fitting for a brand that is focused on heartfelt moments. 


Why different colours are used in different sectors? 

Now we’ve looked at brands who have absolutely smashed their branding colour choices, let’s take a closer look at why certain colours are typically used within different sectors. 



Healthcare brands often use blue and green. This is because blue evokes a sense of trust, reliability, and calm, essential for healthcare providers. Green represents health, tranquillity, and nature, reinforcing the idea of well-being and care. 



Tech companies frequently use blue, black, and white. As we now know, blue conveys trust and dependability, vital for brands handling sensitive information. Black signifies sophistication and modernity, while white represents simplicity and innovation, aligning with the tech industry’s forward-thinking and clean aesthetic. 



Financial institutions also favour blue for its connotations of trust and stability. Green is another popular choice, symbolising growth, prosperity, and wealth, making it ideal for financial services and investment firms. 


Beauty and fashion 

The beauty and fashion industries tend to use a wide range of colours depending on their target market. Black is often used to convey luxury and sophistication, while pink and purple are used to attract a predominantly female audience with their associations of femininity and creativity. 



Retail brands love to use colours like red, orange, and yellow to grab attention and create a sense of urgency and excitement. These colours are energetic and can encourage impulse buying, making them effective in a retail environment where you want customers to spend, spend, spend! 


Why do we use magenta in our branding? 

At BeSmart, our use of magenta isn’t just about aesthetics (although, we can’t lie that magenta is super pretty!), it’s also a strategic decision we use to convey what our brand is all about. 


Here’s why magenta has been put front and centre in our brand: 

Emotional harmony and balance 

Magenta promotes emotional clarity and balance, aligning with our goal to create cohesive and resonant branding for our clients. 


Creativity and innovation 

Known for its association with creativity and imagination, magenta signals our commitment to cutting-edge, innovative design solutions. 


Spiritual and intuitive connections 

Linked to the crown chakra, magenta symbolises higher thinking and intuition, reflecting our approach to insightful and meaningful design. 


Uniqueness and non-conformity 

Magenta sets us apart in a sea of traditional colours, highlighting our dedication to originality and thinking outside the box. 


Friendliness and welcoming nature 

Magenta is perceived as friendly and welcoming, promoting happiness and compassion, which is how we wish to handle all of our client interactions.  

Who knew colours could communicate so much and be so interesting? Well, us… and now you too! 

Next time you bump into the King, let him know from us that we reckon he’d look lovely with a pink Be Smart magenta background, won’t you?! 


Get in touch today to discuss your brand colours and how we can help you to create branding that really resonates with *your* audience! 

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