Understanding the psychology of the color purple

The Psychology Of The Color Purple

The psychology of the color purple can be difficult to identify at first. Compared to other shades, purple is relatively complex. It’s a secondary color, which means it combines two different primary hues: red and blue. 

What’s more, purple can come in various shades and tones, which affect our emotional impact of us when we see it. 

Depending on the type of purple in question, this color can symbolize power, ambition, and creativity. It can also be used to convey a sense of mystery and depth, magic, or spirituality. The psychology of purple is also influenced by where you are in the world. 

Different people and cultures view different shades uniquely based on their experiences and upbringing. 

Most commonly, color psychology defines purple as a shade associated with luxury and royalty. However, purple can also be a symbol of femininity and compassion, bravery, and independence. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the psychology of purple.

The color psychology of purple: A history

The most common way to use purple in branding today is as a symbol of sophistication and luxury. Think of some of the most famous purple logos you’ve seen over the years. Cadbury, Scentsy, Hallmark, and countless other brands use purple as a sign of indulgence and excellence. 

The reason for this stems from the history of the color. Purple has long been associated with wealth and royalty because the purple dye used in ancient times was extremely difficult to access.

Usually, only the noblest people could afford to purchase purple clothing. 

Initially, the resources needed to create purple dye were much more challenging to find than the pigments for other colors, so it wasn’t an ordinary hue people would see very often.

Though purple is much more commonplace today, the associations with extravagance and the aristocracy have remained. 

Many of the most famous people throughout history wore a significant amount of purple, according to historians. Alexander the Great and the various kings of Egypt would typically wear clothes dyed Tyrian purple. 

The shade was also the color of choice for the robe worn by Queen Elizabeth the second following her coronation in 1953.

The Psychology Of The Color Purple

How does the color purple effect the brain?

Thanks to color psychology, all shades have a distinct impact on our brains, and how we feel. The color blue, as an example, is naturally calming, because it exists within the “cool” side of the spectrum. Red is invigorating and passionate, while orange is bright and friendly.

Purple is an interesting color from a psychological perspective, because it’s shade, and our backgrounds can often influence how we perceive it. Some experts believe purple stimulates the part of our brain connected to creativity, because it’s so unique.

Unlike other shades, purple doesn’t appear very frequently in nature, so it’s unique and eye-catching.

Soft shades of purple can have a calming effect, because of the undercurrents of blue in the hue. They can also be linked to concepts like compassion and warmth. A darker shade of purple can stimulate different emotions, such as fear, or mystery.

How we react to purple all depends on the situation, and the specific shade.

Purple can be:

  • Calming: Lighter tints of purple are often considered relaxing colors.
  • Enlightening: Brighter shades of purple are seen to be creative and compelling.
  • Mysterious: Darker shades of purple are closer to black, and more mystifying.

What emotion is the color purple?

As mentioned above, the psychology of the color purple is complicated because different tones influence how we respond to the shade. People typically associate purple and violet with concepts like harmony. This is due to the balance between red’s passion and blue’s calmness.

However, purple can also be enlightening, disturbing, or provocative, depending on your tint. The connotations between purple and wealth can also make us perceive the shade as more trustworthy, as it’s connected to those in a higher place of power.

What does the color purple mean spiritually?

Perhaps more than most other colors, purple has a strong link to the spiritual world. This is partly because it’s such a rare shade to see in day-to-day life. People see purple as other-worldly and unique.

Though its exact meaning from a spiritual perspective varies depending on the belief system:

  • In Hinduism, purple symbolizes meditation, wisdom, and peace. 
  • In Catholicism, purple is connected to Advent and Lent. 
  • In Judaism, purple is linked to redemption through God. 

Depending on where you are in the world, purple can also take on different meanings. 

In Egypt, purple symbolizes faith and virtue, while in Africa, it signifies royalty and prosperity. In America, purple is a color often associated with honor, while in Brazil and Thailand, it’s commonly connected with death and mourning.

The Psychology Of The Color Purple

What does the color purple convey?

While many colors are relatively simple in their meaning, purple is exceptionally versatile. The symbolism connected with purple can vary depending on a range of factors. 

Take the LGBTQ+ flag as an example. The LGBTQ+ flag, purple is associated with non-binary gender identities – something outside of the perceived “traditional” spectrum. 

Some of the most common meanings associated with purple include:

Wisdom and spirituality

Purple is often associated with spirituality due to its mysterious nature. The shade has frequently been connected to the supernatural, the unknown, and the divine. Different shades of purple have different spiritual meanings.

While soft purples are connected with light-hearted, compassionate energies, darker shades are connected to concepts like frustration and sadness. 

Courage and bravery

Although this isn’t the case in all parts of the world, purple has frequently been connected to bravery in the United States.

The Purple Heart is one of the highest honors a person can receive for military service. It’s a symbol of courage given to soldiers for their commendable actions.

Individuality and creativity

Since purple rarely occurs in nature, it often appears exotic and unique. It is a relatively polarizing color, and not everyone likes it. However, it can be seen as unique and innovative in some cases.

In the writing world, the term “purple prose” is usually given to imaginative and hyperbolic writing. 

Luxury and royalty

Perhaps the most common association people have with purple is luxury and royalty. This stems from the history of the color and its presence among people of nobility throughout history.

In some cases, this shade can convey indulgence and sophistication, but it can also be perceived as arrogant.

Femininity and compassion

Because more women prefer purple than men, it’s often connected to the female sex. The shade has appeared in several cases throughout the years regarding women’s suffrage and liberation.

Pale shades of purple are frequently connected with ideas like compassion and romance. 

Mystery and uncertainty

The unique nature of purple and the fact it rarely appears in the natural world can often mean it’s associated with the “unknown.” Many sci-fi brands have used the color purple in the past. In some parts of the world, it’s also directly connected to concepts like death and the afterlife.

How does purple make you feel?

Understanding the psychology of the color purple can be complex, which may be why many companies prefer to avoid this shade when choosing their branding elements.

The location of your customers and their specific experiences with purple can directly impact how your purple logo might make them feel.

It’s also worth noting that various biological factors play a role in how we perceive purple, from our vision to how we process light.

At the same time, there are countless different hues, temperatures, and styles of purple, all of which can create their own meanings and symbolism.

This means everyone’s interpretation of the color purple can be different. When choosing purple for your brand color palette, it’s worth ensuring you understand how your customers respond to this shade and how it’s perceived in your industry.

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Now read these:
What does purple mean in marketing
Should you use purple in packaging design
Is purple a good color for logo design?  
What does purple signify in branding
Why is purple associated with royalty
A guide to colors that complement purple 
Definitive guide to the shades of purple 
Popular companies with purple logos
Your guide to which colors make purple
Exploring the colors of the rainbow

Stephen Peate
Creative director
Stephen Peate
Creative director
As Fabrik’s creative director, Stephen oversees complex branding programmes. He advises our clients on their tone of voice, creates logos and visual identities and crafts names for companies, products and services. Writing for Brand Fabrik Stephen reflects his love for logo design and visual identity.

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