The Meaning of Colors
> The Meaning of Colors
Meanings of color |
Use in retail and business | Gender effects |
Cultural effects | So what?
Meanings of color
Here is a table of colors and many of the
meanings they tend to evoke,
particularly in Western cultures. Notice how colors can mean very different things - it is not that the colors themselves
have meaning, it is that we have culturally assigned meanings to them. For
example, red means warmth because of the color of fire. Likewise, it means anger
because of the increased redness of the face when it flushes with blood. Purple
symbolizes royalty only because the only purple dye that was available for many
centuries was very expensive.
anger, danger, boldness, excitement, speed, strength, energy, determination, desire,
passion, courage, socialism
cost, affordability, enthusiasm, stimulation, creativity, aggression, food,
halloween, liberal (politics)
attention-grabbing, comfort, liveliness, cowardice, hunger, optimism,
overwhelm, Summer, comfort, liveliness, intellect, happiness, energy,
reliability, environmental, luxurious, optimism, well-being, nature, calm,
relaxation, Spring, safety, honesty, optimism, harmony, freshness
loyalty, reliability, honor, trust, melancholia, boredom, coldness, Winter, depth,
stability, professionalism, conservatism
nobility, elegance, sophistication, artificial, luxury, mystery, royalty,
traditionalism, intelligence, serious, dull, uninteresting
confident, casual, reassuring, nature, earthy, solid, reliable, genuine,
||Elegance, sophistication, formality,
power, strength, illegality, depression, morbidity, night, death
purity, newness, virginity, peace, innocence, simplicity, sterility, snow,
- The more towards the red end of spectrum you go, the hotter it gets.
- The more towards the blue/purple end of the spectrum you go, the
colder it gets.
- Darker and more intense colors seem heavier.
- Lighter colors seem, unsurprisingly, lighter.
- Darker colors, such as burgundy red, tend to show opulence (they are
often called 'rich' colors).
- Dull shades, such as gray and dark browns indicate poverty.
- Pastel and light shades are delicate, feminine, springtime.
- Bright shades of primary colors indicate summer.
- Earthy shades of brown, yellow and orange speak of nature and the
- Cool shades of white, black and blue represent winter.
Use in retail and business
Here are some ways in which colors are used in retail and business:
- Red: Creates urgency - often used in sales and impulse sales
- Green: Easy, calm - used to relax people
- Blue: Creates trust - used by financial institutions such as banks
- Navy blue: Cheaper - selling to price-sensitive
- Royal blue: Urgency - selling to impulse buyers
- Pink: Romantic - selling to women and girls
- Yellow: Grabbing attention - used in displays and windows
- Orange: Energizing - used to push for action, as in impulse buying
- Purple: Calm - used in anti-aging products
- Black: Power - selling luxury, aggressive products, or to impulse buyers
Color can even change what you taste. Customers who bought 7-Up cans that had
their color changed to yellow reported that the drink tasted more lemony.
Men and women see colors differently. Men are generally less sensitive to
color, so a subtle shade of orangey-red will just appear red. Men also see green
things as more yellow than women. Women are less sensitive to color in the
detail of objects and also in things which are moving quickly.
Red has been associated with romance and an American experiment offering
dates with identical pictures of the same woman in different colored dresses
found that a red dress was most effective in stimulating male desire.
Remember that color can be culturally dependent. For example, although Black is the color of
death in many countries, in China the color associated with death is White.
||Eastern: luck, prosperity, happiness, long life,
Some Africa: mourning
||Belgium: boys (rest of Europe is girls)
||Eastern: happiness, spiritual
||Eastern: sacred, imperial, wisdom, male
Africa: high rank
||Eastern: birth, hope, new beginnings, youth,
Middle East: Islam, strength, luck, fertility,
South America: death
||Eastern: immortality, life, feminine
||Eastern: wealth, privilege, sorrow, mourning
||Eastern: earth, mourning
||Eastern: wealth, health, boys, mystery, evil
||Eastern: death, mourning, funerals, sadness, purity,
Middle East: purity, mourning
So use the color in situations where you are trying to persuade. Use shades
of brown and green to relax people and say you are environmentally friendly. Use
red to kick people into action. And so on.
McDonald's, apparently, use red and yellow because red=fast and yellow=hunger
(hence fast food!).
Remember also that meaning is what we create. It does not exist in the color
itself and individual meanings may or may not exist in different cultures and