On Design: What Does the Color Red Mean?

September 27, 2006

I just updated my preferences in Rackspace’s Noteworthy hosted email service. They confirmed my changes when they reloaded the page with RED TEXT like this:


I thought I had done something wrong.

Here are some of the physiological effects of the colour red:

Red increases the pulse and heart rate, and raises your blood pressure. It increases the appetite by increasing your metabolism, which is why red is such a popular color in restaurants. It is active, aggressive and outspoken. One bank found that their lines moved faster when they increased the use of red in the bank lobby, and in a study of several hundred college students, a researcher found that they responded more quickly to cues under red light than under green light.

Powerful stuff eh? Red text (like a red marker from your school days) also has negative connotaions…it is inherently “alarming” to see something in red text – I know I feel alarmed when I see red text and that is who I felt using Noteworthy.

To confirm a message when you are building web apps, use a happy colour like green and reinforce good behaviour and build trust. Doing this also lets you save red for when you need it…to alert and alarm your users when they have done something, or are about to do something, they need to be aware of.

about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumored he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.