Designers are used to thinking about colours being warm or cold, clashing or complementary, based on their touches of blue or red, or their position on the colour wheel.

For Angela Wright, colour psychologist and founder of consultancy Colour Affects ( there’s more to it than that. Wright has gone beyond what looks nice to discover why particular wavelengths stimulate the brain.

Sounds scary? It’s actually pretty easy to understand.

“Colour works similarly to music,” she explains. “For instance, red will universally raise the pulse rate. However, whether that is perceived as exhilarating or aggressive depends on how you use the red, and how it works with the other colours around it.”

In her system, colours fit into four groups, each echoing a season: spring, summer, autumn and winter. More importantly, Wright says that there are four personality types, each of which has an emotional affinity for one of these groups.

Palettes using colours from more than one of these groups at the same time will cause us to feel conflict. While the emotional significance of the colours may vary from culture to culture, the personality types don’t: according to Wright, you’re the same personality type whether you come from Wuppertal or Ouagadougou.

Learning how to get the best from colour psychology will help you create more attractive and dynamic designs – pleasing viewers and clients simultaneously. Here are 10 of the best ways to brush up on your colour usage.