Designing with Red

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Flickr image: In the Red #25. An abstract series reflecting an interpretation of the average American's financial situation.

Red is the color that provokes the most physiological responses. It has been shown that red causes the human heart beat and blood pressure to rise. People work faster and make more mistakes in a red work-place. Not only will it raise your heart beat, red will make you nervous. Red is the color of blood and is associated with the heart.   Emotionally, red is highly charged: passionate, dangerous, active, and sometimes painful, blood and violence.

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Flickr image: Red, red wine, 2009.

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Flickr image: Red Rose, 2008.

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Flickr image: Green-Park-Bansky, 2005. Red Phone


Avoid the use of pure red since it has a rather jarring effect; it is too bright.


Darker hues of red produce a dramatic and pleasing effect.

Dark Red

Red draws attention, but when someone is already at your website, you have their attention. You want to keep them on your website, so you might want to relax the reader and choose calming color schemes.  That's not to say that red can't be used. Use it to highlight important information. Use it draw action. Buy It Now boxes on your web page. Red brings text and images to the foreground. In advertising, red is often used to evoke eroticism and sin (makeup, perfume and lingerie). Red is also widely used to indicate danger (high voltage signs, traffic lights).  Tie the color to high-energy products: drinks, cars and bikes. Due to red's visibility, it has many practical uses: stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment and dangerous warnings. Also, restaurants use red since the color increases appetite.

Coke Logos:

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Monochromatic schemes can be interesting:


Flickr image: Delicious Red Window, 2008

The intensity of the shade of red translates to a range of emotions:

  • Pink is romantic. It also embodies feminity.
  • Light red is joyous and sexual, passionate and sensitive.
  • Dark red is strength and courage. It has negative darker connotations of rage and revenge.
  • Reddish-brown is mature and bountiful, aligned to the fall harvest.


Consider combining red with other colors to produce a dramatic effect:

Pale blue background with red highlights:


                      Flickr image: When the Sun Rises, 2009

To create a classic tradition look, pair red with neutral colors: cream, black, white or grey or with a warm color like gold/yellow

Red can also be used as a spot color on an otherwise achromatic document:

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Flickr Image:

A spot of red on a black and white document adds interest.

End Note

Never underestimate the power of red and its ability to get your attention. Sarah Palin made headlines when she made her debut wearing opened toed red heels.

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When John McCain introduced her as his running mate, Palin wore a pair of bright-red, peep-toe pumps with three-and-a-half-inch heels by Naughty Monkey, which is generally marketed to "women in their early to mid-20s who go clubbing." Sales of Naughty Monkey shoes have increased by 50 percent on Amazon since Palin wore them (Amy Odel, The Cut).

Image: Sarah Palin's Shoes

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