Colour expert Karen Haller: My Colourful World

Karen Haller is an Applied Colour Psychologist and a leading international authority in her field, specialising in business brand colour, interiors, healthcare and wellbeing. She is also the author of The Little Book of Colour.

Here, Karen – who works with global brands including Farrow & Ball and Dulux – tells us what colour means to her in her work and her personal life…

Martha: Can you describe your first colour memory?
Karen: I’ve loved colour ever since I was a little girl. I can still vividly remember in Kindergarten when I was sitting in front of pots of paints and crayons being beyond excited because I had all these colours to play with. It’s probably why I loved finger painting because I could stick my fingers in all the pots and just go for it – and end up with multi-coloured crazy A4 pieces of paper that my mum would stick to the fridge. From that moment I was hooked – and ever since it’s felt like I’ve had colour in my veins.

Martha: Do you have a favourite colour and has this changed over the years? 
Karen: Oh this is a tricky one, it’s like being asked which is your favourite child 😉 If I had to pick one it would be orange, like the colour you see on a marigold flower – that bright, warm orange. It makes me smile inside whenever I see it, it connects me to my playful side of my personality and it’s a reminder not to forget to have fun!

Martha: What is your favourite colourful object/objects and why? 
Karen: I just love these bowls collected on my travels back home (Australia). I love the bright, happy, smiling colours. And the lion cup, well, being a Leo and orange – it’s like it was made for me. And… I just had to buy this cute orange pencil case. Crayons are definitely allowed!

Martha: How does colour make you feel? Do you use it in your work or personal life to influence your moods or those of your clients?
Karen: The thing that absolutely fascinates me about colour is its incredible power to influence how you think, feel and behave – in an instant. I instinctively knew this even when I was little, but it wasn’t until I discovered the world of colour psychology and colour physics that all my burning questions around why we respond to colour the way we do began to be answered. It’s like I stepped into this world of colour alchemy discovering how colour can help boost your confidence, feel happier – changing your mood in an instant. And from there I started doing the same thing for my customers whether that’s personal colour, business branding, interiors or wellbeing and healthcare.
Overall, I just want to share with the world how amazing colour can make you feel. My aim is to reconnect people back to the wonderful world of colour.

Martha: Do you have a colour you could happily do without? For example, although I wouldn’t want the world to be without them, I’m not that keen on ‘autumn’ colours as a palate, probably from being dressed in them so much in the 1970s!!!
Karen: I believe there is no such thing as a wrong colour. In terms of how I teach colour psychology and colour physics it’s all about the colours they are combined with along with the context. But personally, I’m not a fan of brilliant white. It’s the only colour that isn’t sourced from nature and why people thought they needed to be invented it is beyond me! Oh and I can do without grey skies…

Martha: What does colour mean to you in your day-to-day life? [e.g. work, family]
Karen: I get to play with colour every day and I love it! In my work as an Applied Colour Psychology practitioner, consultant and teacher working with colour is what I do all day long. I get to explore, discover and share the fascinating world of colour with my clients and professional designers, who I teach, and help them use applied colour psychology to enhance their everyday life and working life.

Martha: Do you think there are rules about colour? Or are rules made to be broken? I love colours together that by rights maybe don’t go, such as red and pink, and I’m of the opinion that the rule is ‘There are no rules!’ 
Karen: I always say to people use colour as you want, but trust your instincts – if it feels like the colours don’t go together, if it feels wrong, then it probably is. Colour is very similar to musical notes. There’s no such thing as a wrong note, it’s how they are played together. You can instinctively sense when a note is off and it’s the same with colour. So rather than just going with a colour because it’s on trend, connect back to what you love. Experiment with colour, play and have fun with it.

Martha: Do you have a colour story or anecdote? 
Karen: My nick name for the longest time was Karen ‘I hate yellow’ Haller. I just didn’t like the colour yellow – it didn’t matter what tone it was. I just couldn’t understand why I disliked it so much. I couldn’t wear it or be near it! And then one day it dawned on me. I had yellow furniture in my bedroom as a child and I was a little bit on the naughty side 😉 so I was sent to my room a lot… so subconsciously yellow meant me getting into trouble. Once I made the connection, the feeling went and I saw a cute yellow bikini and bought it on the spot! Now yellow and I are firm friends.

Martha: If a colour was created in your honour, what colour would it be and what would it be called?
Karen: It can only be “Mischievous Orange”. It’s fun, cheeky and loves to get up to a bit of playful mischief!

Martha: If you could give people advice about using colour, what would it be?
Karen: Pick the colours that YOU love, that make you feel good. It’s easy to get caught up in trend colours but they’re only worthwhile if they make you happier, more confident, more uplifted. Don’t worry about what other people think about your colour choices. Colour is very personal. Trust your intuition, your gut feeling. That’s how you should be choosing your colours – on how they make you feel. So go out there explore and have fun with it but most of all surround yourself with colours that make you feel good.

More about Karen Haller

With more than two decades of experience under her belt, Karen understands only too well how colour affects us, influences us and how businesses and designers can use it to influence behaviour.


To read more about Karen Haller and her work, visit 

Published 18 June 2017

One thought on “Colour expert Karen Haller: My Colourful World

  1. vmikkol@LinkedIn. com says:

    I really love your advise! I too love colour, and had similar school experiences- only mine were with pencil crayons. It took me a long time to accept brown and gray – but now as I see the many varying shades, tones I am more c9mfortable- especially as a backdrop to my favorites RED, AQUA, orange, yellow with lots of white and antique white for visual relief! Red makes me happy, gives me confidence and energy!

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