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Orange, the Controversial Hue [DYOB Color Series]

Orange, the controversial hue and how to use it in your blog's design Color Series - Orange, the controversial hue and how to use it in your blog's design


No other color strikes such strong positive or negative emotions. You either love it or you hate it.

A combination of energetic red and happy yellow, orange evokes cheer, joy and sunshine. A hot color, it radiates warmth and energy and is often associated with the tropics.

According to Pantone View, “the name orange stems from the fruit and is derived from Sanskrit. In the chakra system, the Hara center in the abdomen is orange, representing creativity and energy.”

It can symbolize strength and endurance (as in heraldry back in the day) but sometimes also ignorance and defeat.

“Its symbolic meanings are ambiguous – joy, good health, creativity and warmth on the one hand; superficiality, loudness and pride on the other,” says Pantone View.

“Too much orange causes self-centered and self-serving qualities, including pride, arrogance, and lack of care for others. [While] too little orange causes loss of motivation, lower self-esteem, and loneliness,” says Jennifer Bourn of Bourn Creative.

Welcome, we’re exploring the meanings of colors in this new series. Each month in 2014, we’ll cover a new color and discover how it is perceived by others and how it works with other colors.
Today we’ll be talking about Orange. Be sure to check out the links to the rest of the series here.

Associations with Orange

At a very basic level, the warmth of orange evokes images of sunsets, autumn, Thanksgiving and Halloween.

Orange evokes nostalgia and autumn

Orange evokes nostalgia and autumn

Its citrus color helps us connect it with healthy food and because it’s associated with good flavor, can stimulate appetite. This is why orange coloring is added to packaged foods to improve their appearance. Think mac and cheese.

But regardless, orange can represent health and vitality because it increases oxygen supply to the brain, which in turn produces an invigorating effect. Carrots, pumpkin, peaches and mangoes are rich in antioxidant, beta-carotene while oranges are chock full of vitamin C.

Like red, orange is also used to demand our attention and represent safety. That’s why it’s used in warning signage, life rafts or traffic cones.

But because it’s not as aggressive as red, it’s fun and flamboyant. It’s creative, enthusiastic and its childlike exuberance creates excitement and stimulation which encourages purchasing.

Orange is creative, enthusiastic and exuberant

Orange is creative, enthusiastic and exuberant

The Affect of Orange on Age and Gender

Because orange is youthful, it is highly accepted by young people including children. In fact, it’s quite effective in promoting toys or childrens programming. Nickelodeon anyone?

Orange is the 5th favorite color among men and 6th favorite among women, and 5% of both genders consider it their favorite color. On the other hand, it’s the least favorite color of 22% of men and 33% of women.

Twenty six percent of both men and women consider orange to be cheap or inexpensive. Although this is a pretty dated concept, it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. It could also tell people that your product or brand is affordable. Blogger and Payless Shoes both use orange in their logos and those brands are hardly hurting.

Tints + Shades of Orange and What they Usually Mean

To complicate matters, different tints and shades of orange have different meanings as well.

  • Dark Orange can represent deceit, change or distrust.
  • Red-orange is connected to desire, pleasure, aggression, and action.
  • Rusty Orange and Copper are used as the colors of fall and harvest. In our increasingly fast-paced world, these orange hues are welcomed for their nostalgic home-grown and homemade feel.
  • Gold or Yellow Orange brings with it the feeling of prestige and high quality. It can mean illumination, wisdom, and wealth.
    Beige and Tan are earthy and comforting colors.
  • Light Oranges such as peach, coral and melon are seen as friendly, nurturing and soothing. They can appeal to an affluent market because of their association with health care and beauty salons.

How to Use Orange

Orange can be difficult to use correctly. It’s best used for accents and splashes of color because when it’s used as a dominant color, it can feel overwhelming. Be careful not to let it overpower other elements of your design.

As I stated earlier, it’s great for drawing attention, so using it for a primary call to action would be ideal, as would using it to draw attention to a product or opt-in box.

Pairing Orange with Other Colors

Bringing orange together with another color can give your design a little splash of energy.

Pairing orange with white gives a fresh and summery atmosphere to a blog or design.

Orange and white is fresh

Orange and white is fresh

Orange and pink is playful and girly.

Orange and pink is playful and girly

Orange and pink is playful and girly

Orange with aqua and lime green is energetic and fun.

Orange with aqua blue and lime green is energetic and fun

Orange with aqua blue and lime green is energetic and fun

Orange with aqua blue and lime green is energetic and fun

Orange with aqua blue and lime green is energetic and fun

Put orange next to blue and you’ve got a really nice and fresh complimentary effect, especially when the blue is more of an aqua or turquoise color.

Orange and blue look tropical and summery

Orange and blue look tropical and summery

Orange and green can be very fresh especially when paired with white. Slightly darker shades of the colors evoke a retro vibe as in a rust orange and avocado.

This orange and green combo is retro

This orange and green combo is retro

Darker shades of orange together with browns create a warm, natural feel.

Orange and browns or tans feel earthy

Orange and browns or tans feel earthy

Grey added to a color palette with orange tones it down and gives it a slightly sophisticated or urban feel.

Gray helps orange feel more sophisticated

Gray helps orange feel more sophisticated

Gray and orange can feel urban or sophisticated

Gray and orange can feel urban or sophisticated

Orange and black? Just don’t do it unless you really know what you’re doing.

So Should you Use Orange in your Blog?

Orange is used widely across many different industries, from online retailers to motorcycle companies and from telecom companies to home improvement stores. It associates with fun and stands out.

Like red, it can be effective at highlighting important elements in your design so consider using it for call-to-action buttons.

Used in small splashes here and there, it can bring a sense of playfulness to your blog or website so pay attention to your target audience before deciding to use it.

Is orange your favorite color? Least favorite? How do you feel about using orange in your blog’s design? Do you currently use it now? I’d love to hear and see how you use it. Share your thoughts or link in the comments.

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  • Samantha says:

    I switched to a new theme at the beginning of 2014 and I’m loving the orange in it. It feels so fresh and lively.

  • Erin says:

    I redesigned my website recently to a blue with orange accents, and the orange is slowly increasing. I would have thought initially it would be too jarring, but it’s a bit of a muted shade and combined with the blue it’s working really well.

    • Marianne says:

      I agree Erin. Orange and blue is one of my favorite color combinations. I like the muted orange, it definitely keeps it from being too jarring.

  • Michele says:

    I’m working on a site with a salmon color which I find really nice. I’m going to wear my orange sweater today! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Interesting statistics there.

    I didn’t realize that coral was considered an orange. I always think of it as a pink. I guess it is a blend of the two really.

    I noticed that when people discuss their favorite colors we also seem to stick to ROYGBIV colors. I wonder why we don’t think more about aqua or mint or some other variation.

    • Marianne says:

      i went back and forth on whether to include coral in this month or in pink’s month, but figured i may as well mention it in both since it’s a cross between the both. it was also mentioned in my Pantone color book under orange so if Pantone says it’s so, it must be so! ๐Ÿ˜€

      fyi, my favorite color is definitely AQUA, not blue! haha! what’s YOURS?

  • Allyssa says:

    Orange is probably my least favorite color. However, I do love it when it’s paired with hot pink — I love the tropical vibe it gives off! What’s funny though is that my site uses coral and mustard/gold, which depending on the shade, could almost veer into orange territory. Needless to say, I was very careful about picking the exact shades for my site!

    • Marianne says:

      I love your new site Allyssa. Great job on picking the colors.
      I was considering adding it here but then thought it might fit better under my pink color post instead since the coral looks closer to pink than orange.

      I do agree with you on orange and hot pink, love the tropical feel of it too!

  • I LOVE me some orange! I dont know if you ever saw what thewpchick used to look like, but I had a ‘chick’ and my colors were blue and orange. I kind of miss my orange… hmm.. maybe I need launch something else. haha..
    Great post, as always.

    • Marianne says:

      No! I never saw that older design! You’ll have to send me a screenshot or something. I do love orange too when paired with aqua blue.

  • Love the color, especially when contrasted with black. Yes, orange is full of energy.

    • Marianne says:

      Ah see, i don’t like that color combo at all, reminds me of Halloween haha! But have to agree with you on the energy, that’s for sure. Thanks for coming over from FB Ventakatesh!

  • jodi shaw says:

    I use a coral or salmon color sort of in my blog, I was using orange before, I love how orange and blue and yellow play off one another, especially if you use lighter more pastel colors, but even a bold color is great. Fantastic post!

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks Jodi! I love those 3 colors together too!
      Did you recently redesign your blog? I don’t remember the header. Or i may have been looking at it on my phone….

  • Hi Marianne,

    Nice insights into orange, which I didn’t know. And thanks for explaining how it combines with other colors.

    Do you know, the sages and saints in India have always used strong orange as their dress color? Orange is also associated with giving up materialiastic life and worldly desires, it seems. Not sure how much it helps, though. Even the westerners in the Hare Rama Hare Krishna temple in India and abroad put on a complete orange attire. The ISKCON people. Look very bright since orange looks nice on persons with white skin.

    Many years ago, I used to see orange colored posters everywhere with nothing except the word orange written on them. I used to think whichever company is advertising themself as orange seems to be wasting tons of money because no one knows what they do. At the time, I didn’t have a mobile phone, so didn’t know it was a U.K. mobile company. It was bought by Vodafone, later, it seems.

    There’s also a webhosting company by the name ”A Small Orange”. Nice name, I’d say. Their domain name is and they use orange and green on buttons and for highlighting some text. They also use different shades of both these colors on the site. I think I like the combination.

    Never used orange on my sites but in my school days, I used to like bright orange. I love the fruit, and orange juice, btw. ๐Ÿ™‚ Who doesn’t?

    • Marianne says:

      Thanks for the insights into orange from a different cultural perspective. I had to keep my series focused on western-based meanings so as to not get too overwhelming, but I appreciate the additional comments from you. Feel free to chime in on the other color posts as they come too ๐Ÿ™‚

      I know the Orange company you’re talking about, they are in France as well. I did think about them as i was writing this post.

  • Shelley says:

    Hey Marianne, Thanks for featuring my website here! (Your orange & white example.)

    I’m actually trying to work in some teal as an accent color via graphics and heading fonts, especially on the blog. I think it will help tone down the intensity of the page vs. just orange/white/gray.

    But I love orange. Always have ๐Ÿ™‚

    Nice post, thanks!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Shelley,
      It’s a great looking site, really! I love it the way it is, but adding teal would be really cool too. I just love those colors!

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