Accessing information has never been so easy.

It’s part of what makes elearning great: Our mobile devices give us instant access to anytime-anywhere learning, and we’re able to gain new knowledge and skills incredibly easily.

But did you know that almost as important as the ideas in what we read, is how it is presented? Visual design, especially colour choice, has a major role in how we foster learning (especially online).

Colour not only influences mood, energy level and engagement, it’s a factor in comprehension. That’s right, the colour you choose for an online article, course, or module can actually reduce the amount of effort your audience has to make to understand it.

A green roof on an apartment building
A green roof on an apartment building in Sinapore. Photo by Chuttersnap.

This was tested by a recent study in Melbourne which gave 150 university students a boring, attention-sapping task. Midway through the task, they were given a 40-second break to look at a view. Half the group viewed a green roof, while the others looked out onto a bare concrete roof.

After the break, students who glanced at the greener vista made significantly fewer errors and demonstrated superior concentration compared to those who viewed the concrete roof. Why? Green has a strong emotional correspondence with safety, and suggests stability and endurance, as well as being tranquil and calming.

Interesting, right?

Let’s take a look at a few more basic colours and what they represent.

A basic introduction to colour psychology

Yellow colour psychology

Hello, happiness! Yellow is warm, optimistic, cheerful and dynamic, and it literally kick-starts the brain by stimulating serotonin (the feel-good chemical). But don’t go overboard – studies have shown babies cry more in yellow rooms.

Blue colour psychology

Blue is the world’s favourite colour. And for good reason – it’s the colour of clarity, efficiency and communication. Blue calms the mind and aids concentration – studies have even shown that when surrounded by blue, athletes perform better. You might even say blue is up-Lift-ing. (Get it? We’re all about the blues at Lift Ed.)

Red colour psychology

Red will get your attention more than any other colour, but it’s one that swings easily between its positive and negative associations. It’s a very physical colour – passionate, exciting, and full of energy. It motivates and strengthens, but is also very demanding and aggressive. Use red to bring about a sense of urgency.

Green colour psychology

As the study in Melbourne highlighted, green isn’t just the colour of money (although that’s definitely a strong association). It’s safe and calming, but it’s also healing, symbolising growth, loyalty and truth.

White colour psychology

White has long had an association with being pure; a symbol of integrity. But white is also clean, it’s de-cluttering, and gives a sense of order. Too much white can feel empty or isolating, sterile even, but a bit of white space shows efficiency and organisation, and helps clear the mind and aids concentration.

What’s the takeaway here? If you’re putting together a learning tool, it’s worth considering colour associations. Think about what mood you’re trying to create, what outcomes you want to achieve, and choose colours that will help you help your learners.

Get in touch if you’d like help designing an effective programme for your elearners.