Inside Job | The Colour Psychologist

Karen Haller Career Story YourStoree

Karen Haller is one of the few professionally trained applied-colour psychology specialists in the UK. As a trainer and trouble-shooter for branding companies, architects and designers she delves deep into our experience with colour.

Through psychology she adds science to instinct, revealing the fascinating reasons behind our reactions to colour and why she believes “behaviour is the bottom line.”

Please tell us about your role. 

I started my own business eight years ago doing colour consulting for people’s homes, branding and businesses as well as colour campaigns, writing and public speaking. For example, with the colour campaigns I analyse the results for behavioural patterns –  depending on whether it’s a negative or positive response I then suggest colours that either embrace or point to a change.

Your website mentions you find colours that help “sell”, how does that work? 

It all depends on who it’s for. There is no such thing as a right or wrong colour, it’s all about context and the behaviour you want to promote. It’s over simplifying to say colour is subjective because its multifaceted with many parameters. It’s not as simple as saying a certain colour always makes people react in a particular way.

How did you get where you are today?

I was working in IT when I realised I needed to do something more creative. I used to make my own clothes as a kid and decided to study fashion and millinery. It was as I was sewing feathers I suddenly thought, “It’s colour!” I can still remember it quite clearly.

I began studying colour theory in Sydney, which I loved, but it just scratched the surface of the deeper questions of colour and behaviour. It was only later I realised that the questions were all based around psychology. This led to child psychology followed by  interior design until I eventually found a colour psychologist in the UK who finally answered all my questions. I am the ultimate ‘why?’ child. Since then it’s been the business. Everything is about timing and I started when the economy crashed so I had to change tack a few times but it’s always about colour psychology. That’s the thing that got me out of bed in the mornings and the passion that keeps me going.

How did you get your first break?

Well, there were lots of little breaks. You see I think I’m riding on this colour wave – being from Sydney I think in waves – which hasn’t tipped yet. It’s not yet mainstream, the notion that colour is important enough to come at the beginning of design and not at the end, is still evolving.

I was also really lucky. By writing and getting up to do talks I created my own momentum. My advice would be to find a niche, find something you love talking about and don’t stop talking about it because thats when the big companies find you.

 Have you always been a natural public speaker?

No, gosh…no, no. As the school prefect I hid for talks and even in my IT life I never did a presentation of any kind. In fact, I sat behind my desk hoping no one would notice me grabbing to it. When I’d just started the business my first marketing person suggested I do a talk and I immediately burst into tears! After a while she simply said, “Next week I’ve booked you on the radio and you are doing it – it’s only a conversation.”

But that’s the thing; if you really love your subject you realise you have something to say. Even now, every time you do a talk it’s bigger than the last and what’s in front looks like Mount Everest. I’m still practicing talking and smiling at the same time though; I’m still working on that bit.

(Interviewer note to self: Karen is always laughing. If she were a colour, I’d pick yellow; sunny.)

What’s your advice for anyone looking to do something similar?

If you choose to work in colour never lose your curiosity or your excitement and stay in that state of wonder and awe. I believe we are entering a new colour paradigm.This is a really exciting time.

Thank you Karen for helping others craft their own career story. 

Karen Haller


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