Blue, the color of calm, trust and safety

The clear blue sky on a winters day and the deep blue of the sea. Seeing the color blue has an immediate effect on our frame of mind. Blue evokes a sense of calm, trust and safety. This effect is not only psychological but physical as well: Seeing this color lowers our blood pressure.

This effect can be traced back to our primal instinct. To survive in prehistoric times the urgency of getting food and averting danger was very real. A free line of sight; an unobscured view of the horizon, where the blue sky meets the land, offered various strategic advantages. On one hand to assess possible threats and on the other to pinpoint sources of food. To observe how this instinct still effects our behavior today, think of the predilection many people have for a house with a view or the feeling we get when we gaze at the ocean. (Friedman, 2014).

Blue as a source of information

In his book Applied Color Psychology (1968) Mr T Oegema van der Wal asserts the combination blue-white serves best to convey an announcement. The underlying theory: Since prehistoric times, human beings have been watching the skies to predict the weather. This assessment was of vital importance as our ancestors prepared for the challenges of the coming day. Every type of weather corresponded with a certain foraging strategy. Considering that, for millions of years, the sky has been one of our most trusted advisers, it’s fair to assert its colors are deeply rooted in our primordial brain. Information conveyed in the colors blue and white; a blue sky functioning as the background for a white (the clouds) message.

A quaint fact: In the above mentioned book Oegema recommends the substitution of all black and white road signs for blue and white ones. Presently, almost 50 years later, when we look at the dutch road signs, it’s obvious his advise has been taken to heart.

Blue applied

The color blue also inspires trust and suggests empathy. Politicians skillfully exploit this feature, adjusting, for instance, the color of their attire in compliance with the aim of their speech. Shades of blue are used when a speech pertains to trust and safety.


When speeches are centered around decisiveness and action, shades of red are employed. The garment of choice in this case is usually the tie.


While we’re on the subject of attire, the dutch police department is presently working to improve their connection with the community. Does the present color of their uniform, black, contribute to this endeavor or is the previously used color blue the best choice?


The color blue is situated opposite of red on the color spectrum and is described as a cold color. Blue has a cooling effect. It reminds us of water and ice. This effect is most notable on a hot summers day. When exposed to heat our subconscious mind has a preference for cold colors as opposed to a warm color like red. During the winter it’s the other way around. When exposed to cold we prefer shades of warm colors as they fool our brains into feeling warmth. Aside from the psychological effect there is a physical effect, as I mentioned in my previous blog on the color red. The sight of red raises our blood pressure and heart rate.

Urban Senses

Our aim is to bring about a positive environmental message in order to get people into a positive frame of mind and, moreover, contribute to a general positive “vibe” effectively preventing common nuisances and petty crime. Are you anxious to know how Urban Senses can help you to convey a positive environmental message? Contact us for an intake and a quickscan, completely free of charge! For more information on this subject, visit our website at

Red, the color of passion, courage and danger

For millions of years color has influenced our mindset and thus our behavior. In the early days of our species, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers (anywhere between 2 million and 10 thousand years ago), our minds were already continuously awash with colors. Our brains unconsciously relied on these colors to assess danger and survive the harsh prehistoric environment. The effect these colors have is deeply rooted in our minds. In this blog I want to discuss the color red and its effect on the psyche.

We associate the color red with danger, the color of blood. To notice this association all we need to do is scan our surroundings: red lights at railway crossings, red traffic signs, fire engines. The color red captures our attention in various ways. Not only psychologically but also physically. Our heart rate is raised along with blood pressure and the adrenaline level in our bloodstream. The body is being primed, ready to take action in order to survive.


The color red is associated with passion and warmth as well. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of years gathered around hearths, depending on the fire for warmth and safety. We started to prepare food with heat, effectively killing bacteria. Another side effect was the group bonding that ensued from these gatherings. Friendship, romance, procreation in order to ensure the survival of our species. In our subconscious mind all of these things are closely related to fire and the color red. Many believe that this is the main reason for men to get excited by a woman in a red dress. The color red is subconsciously associated with the glow of embers in the tents and caves where our ancestors made our present existence possible.


Courage and masculinity is also associated with the color red. To survive our ancestors needed to hunt and that required perseverance and bravery. When blood flowed from the wounds of our prey it meant sustenance and survival. It instilled strength and courage.

Outside the effect red has on our primal instinct, some of the effects are culturally based. In many cases the meaning of the color red in the western world is different compared to what it means in China or Russia. Think about communism.

A misguided application of red

A typical false belief when it comes to using colors is the efficacy of the red colored emergency exit. Our instinct has us primed to associate red with danger so intuitively we’re reluctant to pass through a red door. On top of that stress levels are raised, something we specifically want to avoid during an emergency. Various studies have shown that the color red is often hardly visible, it being on the fringes of the visible spectrum. In situations were light is fading, with billowing smoke or power failure for example, greenish yellow is much more likely to capture our attention. Green is commonly associated with safety. The directions to the emergency exit are usually green as well. So why not the door itself?


Should we now proceed to paint all red emergency exits lime green? Not advisable. This is a typical example of a culture based association. After many years of red emergency exits we need to gently bring about a change in paradigm. From a color that spells danger to a color that instills a feeling of safety and, moreover, is easier to notice in darkened areas.


From red to green, from danger to safety.


Sense influencing zones

Color psychology is one of tools that I use in order to furnish sense influencing zones. Areas where desired behavior is elicited by means of an interdependent assortment of image, scent, sound and color. Take, for example, hotspots for loiterers. A common nuisance. What we offer is a makeover of the area. To redesign it in such a way that the stimulants that give rise to nuisances are no longer in play.

The aim of Urban Senses

Our aim is to bring about a positive environmental message* in order to get people into a positive frame of mind and, moreover, contribute to a general positive “vibe” effectively preventing common nuisances and petty crime. Are you interested in how Urban Senses can help you in carrying out a positive environmental message? Contact us for a free intake and quickscan. For more information on this subject, visit my website at

* The environmental message is the combination of all stimulants in a certain area. Examples of negative stimulants are poor illumination, noise pollution, stench, misapplication of colors, poorly styled graffiti, advertisements etc.



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