Color code refers to a particular system that displays information using varying colors. Color is an important aspect of human daily life given that it impacts perceptions that are not explicit including aspects such as the taste of food. Color impacts all people in different ways especially because factors like gender, culture as well as age can determine how different people perceive it. For instance, scholarly research conducted by Eric (2014) showed that men tend to believe that red-colored female outfits are more attractive. The study however indicated that women do not associate the attractiveness of male outfits with color. Today, color coding is widely used in marketing as well as branding. As explained by Boss (2011), most marketers perceive color as a critical marketing tool because it can be employed to impact consumers’ perceptions on certain products and services. Similarly, companies employ color when deciding the most appropriate brand logos. This is because the brand logos would eventually attract a huge number of consumers especially if their colors match the perceptions linked to products or services. Color coding is not only popular in logos as well as products but it is equally popular in window displays in retail stores. A research that was undertaken by Eric (2014) showed that warm colors attracted unprompted consumers despite the fact that cooler colors were mostly linked to more favorable product prices.
Color coding is not a new concept but it is an activity that has been employed throughout history to enhance critical communication by use of different colors. As explained by Boss (2011), earliest instances of color codes included distant communication using flags with different colors. For instance, United Kingdom used flags in distant communication where red color would be adopted to signify danger while white color would be used to signify safety. Various other countries used flags in semaphore communication with different colors being associated with varying meanings (Eric, 2014). As chemistry as well as other technologies continued to advance, color coding as a means of distinguishing between things that would otherwise be confusing became common. Common examples where color codes were employed included wiring in electronic as well as electrical devices and even in pharmaceutical pills. Today, color coding has been extended in various other fields including those intending to promote safety. For instance, the Homeland Security System Review System uses colors codes to convey information pertaining to the level of terrorism threat severity to the US government as well as the federal agencies (Boss, 2011). Hospitals are using color codes to communicate about certain health conditions. For example, hospitals widely use “Code Blue” and “Code Pink” as indications for cardiac arrest and child abduction respectively. Despite the diverse ways in which color codes are employed, they are usually associated with various problems. Color codes are known to pose significant challenges for blind as well as color blind people. The use of a huge variety of colors to code a great deal of variables has reportedly been linked to the usage of confusingly like colors. This has proved to pose significant challenges in communication as different people can develop diverse perceptions and subsequently misinterpret the conveyed information (Eric, 2014). The main purpose for writing this paper is to determine the impact of color codes and to enhance proper understanding of how color coding can used as an effective communication tool in everyday life.
The impact of color coding
Color is usually portrayed as an important element that people from around the world process without being consciously aware of the fact that they are doing so. While color tends to be a powerful aspect of visual communication, it pops out at an observer at the initial stages of vision. This means that color can perpetuate significant impacts on viewers more than any other aspect of communication can. Color impacts people by conveying important meaning in communication. As explained by Boss (2011), the human brain is usually compelled to find important meaning in every form of communication, whether it is planned or not. While eyes are usually attracted to bright as well as high-colors, observers are likely to find meaning in anything that stands out. This means that the use of color as a basis for emphasis can be equated with verbal emphasis explaining which element is associated with the greatest value. For instance, Lynda.com website uses bright yellow color to display their most critical messages as evident in the picture below:
According to Eric (2014), businesses from various parts of the globe employ color-coding to convey important meaning linked to their business models. Businesses employ this technique especially when seeking to contrast their current model with the future models as well as clarify what could be uncertain about the current model. For instance, Google has established a color code to create meaning associated with internal operations within its business with different color codes portraying various consumer segments. An example of a business model through which Google has employed color code is the bare-bones model. Color code in this model allows a viewer to clearly see which building blocks link to searchers, which ones link to advertisers and which ones link to both searchers and advertisers as shown in the picture below (Boss, 2011).
Color coding further impacts people by significantly improving their usability of everything they interact with in their everyday activity. For instance, hospitals use glaring red waste bags to ensure that healthcare professionals will dispose potentially infectious waste materials into the right container. A similar concept is evident in the digital world where color codes are employed in user interfaces to enhance usability of the most critical digital functions (Eric, 2014). For instance, the green color code in Thesis WordPress enables users to select only the important function and not to get stranded about how they can ultimately save their selection. Color coding further enhances usability by enhancing quick information conveyance in visual search. This is mostly common in graphic subway maps where differently coded lines as used to portray varying railway lines. Color codes in such maps ensure that a person that is actively scanning the environment to locate a particular feature can easily identify it from among various other indicators. On this note, color codes make it easy to visually follow a particular path, which speeds up the exploration process (Boss, 2011).
Further impact of color coding is that it enhances non-verbal communication. As explained by Eric (2014), different color facets, including saturation portrayed through pure colors as well as value portrayed through a range of light and dark colors, are known to evoke certain emotions. Color further evokes mood, which is defined as a long-lasting frame of mind that reflects a more generalized experience. Moods are usually communicated through a range of colors with lighter colors being used to convey positive moods while darker colors are used to convey negative moods. Painters as well as photographers are the best known artists that can effectively use color codes to communicate moody experiences. Color codes also impact non-verbal communication by conveying metaphors that would otherwise be conveyed using verbal language. As explained by Boss (2011), color codes such as blue, red as well as green are usually employed in graphic illustrations to convey envy in photographs.
Another impact of color coding is that it reduces injuries as well as accidents. According to Eric (2014), accidents as well as injuries are common in companies and can lead to destruction of properties as well as equipments worth millions of dollars. Owing to the type of machineries, tools, electrical equipments as well as temperature extremes involved in companies, work may never be completed without accidents, injuries as well as property damages. As such, color codes are often used in such places to promote alert, attentive as well as responsible use of all the materials while reducing possible injuries and accidents. According to Boss (2011), color codes within companies help workers to easily identify switches, adjust handles as well as control knobs. This makes safety less dependent on the need to read signs, which becomes convenient even for people that may not be able to easily read English as the basic communication language. For instance, companies use red color to indentify dangerous locations on machineries. They also use orange color to warn people on certain hazards including edges as well as openings. Yellow color is also used to caution people while blue color is used to inform people about the state of machinery, including when such machinery is out of order. Similarly, green color is often used to signify safety, including safe locations as well as places where medical treatment can be obtained.
Color coding has been employed in different fields, which can further explain its significant impact as an important communication tool. Literature indicates that color coding has been employed in the medical field to distinguish between different types of medicine, laboratory apparatus and various safety precautionary tools. According to Boss (2011), color coding has widely been employed in medicine, thanks to constant technological advancement. Although the earliest pills, whether purchased over the counter or prescriptions, were largely white, color coding has made the modern world completely different. The new technology, which started taking shape in 1975, has led to the introduction of many colorful medications that are tinted in any of more than eighty thousand color combinations. Continuous technological advancement has also continued to bring new and attractively color-coated tablets into the market. Aside from the fact that color has proven to be very appealing to the eyes, it has also been helpful to the consumers and the pharmaceutical companies. To the consumer, color helps in differentiating between over the counter and prescription medications. This is particularly important to the elderly who tend to get confused when taking a variety of medications. As such, pharmaceutical companies continually employ a wide range of color codes to create prescription medicines as shown in the example below (Boss, 2011).
Color coding has also been used in medical laboratories especially when distinguishing between various vacutainer tubes used for diverse blood testing procedures. Although the wide range of colorful containers may seem overwhelming for the ordinary people, healthcare professionals are equipped with sufficient skills to distinguish between these colors as required depending on the type of specimen to be drawn. As explained by Eric (2014), pharmaceutical industries employ color codes to create vacutainer tubes that can easily be distinguished depending on their stopper color, which in return indicate the presence of particular additives. For instance, medical laboratories use vacutainer tubes with gold, red or gray stopper to run tests on bleeding disorders. Such tubes usually have a clot activator that separates blood and serum. Tubes that have red stopper also contain clot activator and are usually used in medical laboratories to run routine donor screening for possible infectious diseases. Additionally, tubes that have orange, yellow or grey stoppers usually contain thrombin and are usually employed when testing serum needed within a very short time. Medical institutions also use color codes to enhance safety. A survey that was conducted by Boss (2011) showed that the Ontario Hospital Association has set a set of standardized emergency codes intended to alert patients as well as healthcare workers when an emergency issue emerges. The study showed that the standardized color codes were also adopted in Florida, which has over one hundred hospitals as well as healthcare systems. The standardized color codes employed in these states include red symbolizing fire, blue symbolizing cardiac arrest, pink symbolizing child abduction, black symbolizing bomb, orange symbolizing bioterrorism, grey symbolizing violence, white symbolizing hostage, yellow symbolizing lockdown, green symbolizing mass casualty and brown symbolizing severe weather.
Color coding is further used in the engineering field particularly in resistors, wiring as well as piping systems. As explained by Boss (2011) color coding is used in resistors to convey their resistive value as well as tolerance. To achieve this objective, a universally accepted color-code scheme was created several years ago to enhance quick identification of resistors’ ohmic value irrespective of their sizes as well as conditions. The scheme comprises of various colored rings in spectral order with digits that represent the resistor value. The markings on each one of the colored rings are usually read each ring at a time beginning from the left hand side to the right. Matching the color of each ring with its associated number helps to establish a resistor’s resistance value as shown in the picture below:
Color codes in the engineering fields are also used in electrical wires to enhance correct arrangement of an electrical system to ensure safety. While different electrical wires, irrespective of their function, carry electrical currents, color codes ensure that each one of them is treated with significant precaution to avoid hazardous situations. According to Eric (2014), engineering firms have established universally accepted electrical wire color codes that are intended to convey information pertaining to the purpose for which each wire is intended. Engineering firms use the black electrical wire to transmit power in all circuits. On this note, a black wire in any circuit is usually considered as being hot or live and can never be used for a neutral wire. A black wire is usually used as a switch leg in a connection that exists between the switch and the electrical board. Similarly, a red wire signifies derivative live wires that are used in a 220-volt circuit. A red wire is usually employed in certain categories of switch legs as well as in interconnections that exist between hard-wired smoke detectors and the power system. One red wire can be connected to another red or black wire (Boss, 2011). Blue or yellow wires are used to transmit power but cannot be used in wiring outlets in normal plug-in electrical appliances. Blue or yellow colors are usually employed for the live wire adopted through conduit. Yellow color is often used as a switch leg for things such as fans, switch outlets as well as structural lights. On the other hand, a blue wire is usually used as a traveler in a three-way or even a four-way switch. White and grey colors are often used in neutral wires. White as well as grey electrical wires indicate neutral although white color tends to be the most used for this purpose. A white or grey colored neutral wire is usually linked to a neutral bar in the electrical panel. White or grey electrical wires can only be connected to other like-colored wires (Boss, 2011).
Although color coding has proven to be an important communication tool, its usage is linked to certain disadvantages that tend to significantly reduce its effectiveness in meeting the initially intended objective. As explained by Eric (2014), using color codes may put people that are color-blind at a disadvantage by making them to miss out on crucial information being conveyed using this strategy. This disadvantage is critical given that over 8% and 0.5% of men and women respectively are affected by this problem. This means that about thirteen million people in United States miss important information that is always conveyed using colors, which especially include red and green colors. Although this population may seem to be relatively low compared to a wider society, chances that important information will be reviewed by someone that is color blind are high (Eric, 2014). It is therefore important to pick the correct color to ensure that important information is accessible to color blind audiences. Another disadvantage of using color codes in communication is that they make the audience to get accustomed to color and hence perceive any communication without color as boring. This in return makes communication a tedious process as anyone intending to communicate anything to an intended audience must put a lot of effort in integrating color (Boss, 2011). In order to address this problem, it is important for presenters to alternate between varying color schemes as well as integrate white and black shades. This would in return prevent presentations from translating into monotonous activities while on the other hand preventing the audience from becoming accustomed to attractive colors.
Color represents an important communication facet that does not only appeal to the eyes but it as well influences people’s perceptions. This is because people might have positive thoughts on things prevailing in certain colors and have negative thoughts on those with different colors. Color is popularly used in marketing and branding especially because it tends to appeal to various consumer categories being targeted. While color codes have been in usage for a long time, their impact in communication is evident in diverse ways depending on the situation in which they are employed. Color codes convey meaning, promote non-verbal communication, prevent accidents and injuries, and improve usability of different things that people interact with on day-to-day activities. Colors codes have further been used in various fields to serve different purposes, which further indicate how this concept impacts communication. For instance, color codes are employed in medicine and engineering fields to promote safety, enhance proper medicine utilization, allow correct medical sample derivation, enhance correct wiring implementation and convey the resistive value as well as tolerance in resistors.
Boss, K. (2011). Color-Coding and Human Factors Engineering to Improve patient Safety Characteristics of Paper-Based Emergency Department Clinical Documentation, HERD, 4(4):211-430.
Eric, C. (2014). A standardized Set of 200 Full Color, Real World Pictures for Use in Psychology Research, North American Journal of Psychology, 16(3):78-452.