Colour has a strong attraction power: it can capture visual attention faster than other design features; it can be inviting and appealing; and colours can evoke specific feelings and emotions of consumers. Furthermore, colours may play an important role in establishing a brand image. Henceforth, colour serves in particular as a primary tool in store design and in the visual display of products, that is in visual merchandising.
The sight, selection and arrangement of colours can be important for pulling shoppers into the store as well as for shaping their shopping experiences. The colours on display may take part in determining how enjoyable, pleasant or exciting is the store visit, and they may also help in extending the visit. This post is focused on the use of colour in display of the merchandise rather than in the surrounding design of a store or shop.
The choice of colours often addresses the goal of evoking particular emotions and associations. For example, blue is expected to instill a feeling of calm (it may also reinforce trustworthiness) while green evokes the feeling of freshness, followed by probable associations of nature and environment-friendliness. Yellow is bright and luring, considered the strongest and quickest hue to attract attention from distance; it is also joyful and optimistic (pink is also optimistic but more naïve). Red is usually energetic and happy, oftentimes associated with passion and romance. However, red can especially be context-dependent and in some situations it may be perceived as alarming and be associated with danger. Therefore red should be used with extra care regarding its fit with the image a marketer or retailer wishes to create (e.g., red may be used successfully to elicit urgency). Orange may be used to evoke joy and happiness more pleasantly and safely than red (orange is a secondary colour produced by mixing the primary colours red and yellow). A combination of two or three colours is sometimes applied to get the desired effect.
Nevertheless, the display of multiple colours would create a different and special kind of effect. Rather than relying on the affective loading of a specific colour, the combination of a spectrum of colours of merchandise can elicit the association of richness, and the scene may feel more playful. In the kitchenware shop (by “Jack Wolfskin”) seen on the right, for example, different items in a range of colours (red, yellow, orange, blue, green, brown and more) are arranged on shelves and desks. We can see collections of items of the same type in different colours like a spectrum on shelves next to the wall; in other places there are collections of different items adjacent in the same colour (e.g., dark red). Items may appear in different tones of the same hue (e.g., deep-dark and sky-bright blue). Altogether, the scene gives an impression of a delightful assortment of kitchenware. Finally, the front window is open (has no back) so that passers-by can look through and see the entire colourful scene from outside, inviting shoppers to come-in. (Note: Jack Wolfskin is known mostly as a fashion brand for outdoors casual and sportive clothing).
The second example shown here relates to Mymuesli, a brand specialising in customised and assorted ready-made mixes of muesli meals. The brand-owner company (established in 2007) based in Bavaria, Germany, is both making and retailing the muesli ingredients (there are 80 of them) and mixes, online and in its physical stores. In a store, pre-mixed mixtures are packed in long round tubes standing on shelves; the tubes are painted in different colours (varying in hues and brightness) according to ingredient type (e.g., fruits, chocolate, granola) or mixture flavour. For ‘mymuesli’, the spectrum of colours of tubes serves to emphasise the variety of ingredients and flavour combinations of muesli meals that can be created. As in the Swiss store shown above, the colourful scene can be seen wide-open through the front window, appealing and intriguing.
- Further reading on the interesting story of this company and brand (recommended): “Mymuseli — A Bavarian Success Story“, Mike Dawson, 9 June 2016
It is vital, however, to keep some order and logic in the arrangement of colours; lest it might lead to fatigue, confusion and disorientation of the shoppers. It is a matter of the structure of the display and the order in which colours are placed (i.e., items of which colours should be placed adjacent to each other). Complementary colours, directly opposite one another on a colour wheel, may better be put next to each other (e.g., primary colour blue and secondary colour orange). Darker and brighter variants of a colour (e.g., dark green, light green, or yellow-green) may also be placed next to each other. A white background, as in the stores shown above, should help shoppers to discern the colours more clearly and impressively, The other consideration regards the forms of item and colour groupings (e.g., creating shapes in varying colours or blocks of colours).
The choice of each colour is important in itself. A combination of a few colours can help to create a theme or induce different sensations and feelings. The form and arrangement of multiple colours, differing by hue and brightness, may induce different perceptions (e.g., contrast, variety, playfulness), interest and aesthetic appeal.