Prateek Patel

What Colors Communicate

In our previous post, Colors - Basics, we discussed what colors are and touched base with how importance they are. We concluded that every color is different and they also convey a different meaning each. Not only that they all are interpreted differently across various communities societies.

Different designs call for different colors and styles, however, in all good designs there are always a few common denominators:

  1. Pure? Tint? Shade? Tone?
    • Pure Colors
      [Pure Colors]
      These are hues which are not mixed with other hues. They are typically used in bright designs. Anything youthful, summery, cheerful, energetic, cool etc. could benefit from the use of pure colors.
    • Tints
      Tints are colors mixed with white. Tints convey a lighter, more peaceful, less energetic feeling than pure colors and are usually considered more feminine. Industries like health, spa, beauty etc. might benefit from using tints.
    • Shades
      Shades are colors mixed with black. Shades can work well in mysterious, dark, evil or dangerous designs. They work well in gradients, when used with either a pure color or a lighter shade.
      Tints and shades can also play a part in what feelings the color conveys. For instance, a darker shade of blue would convey more security and integrity. Lighter tints of blue would convey more tranquility and peace.
  2. Color Meanings
    Certain colors can convey different feelings, depending on what part of the world your design will be viewed. Here are some feelings colors can give off in the western world:
    • Blue - loyalty, Security and integrity, conservatism, tranquility and peace, coldness, sadness.
    • Green - Freshness, nature, fertility, growth and envy
    • Yellow - Energy, brightness, illumination, cheerfulness or caution
    • Purple - Spirituality, luxury, creativity, mystery, mysticism, (reddish purple) royalty, rarity.
    • Pink - Romance, beauty, love, sensitivity
    Tints and shades can also play a part in what feelings the color conveys. For instance, a darker shade of blue would convey more security and integrity. Lighter tints of blue would convey more tranquility and peace.

Cultural Difference in Interpretation:

Different People from diverse places have a different meaning and interpretation for colors. These differences or associations have developed and evolved over decades and centuries. Hence, they play an important role in design. Cultural context is one of the most important factors that needs to be taken into account when designing a logo or website

Here are some colors with their cultural representations.
Red is the color of love, passion, romance, fire, violence, aggression in most cultures : Chinese brides wear red for their wedding, and red roses are the most common gift for St. Valentine's Day. Red is also the color of communism – the flags of China and Vietnam are red. The Former Soviet Union's flag used to be red too. The army of the Soviet Union was known as the “Red Army”.
In Christianity, green and red are associated with Christmas. There is an Easter tradition to color eggs red – red in this case represents the blood of Christ.
Satan is also most of the time represented by the color red in icons and popular culture. On the other hand, Santa Claus wears red and white for Christmas.
In China, red paper and red envelopes are frequently used to wrap gifts of money. Though, on the negative side, obituaries are traditionally written in red ink, and to write someone's name in red signals that you are either cutting them out of your life, or that they have died.
Red is also used to indicate emergency and warnings. Red is the color for all Stop signs around the World. However, the first Stop sign had black letters on a white background until 1924 when white was replaced with yellow. It wasn't until 954 that all stop signs became white and red.
In North America, because of the color of the United States dollar bill, green is the color of wealth and money. Also, the color green is always associated with nature.
In my native country, Romania, people with green eyes are seen as very deceptive people. In some of Shakespeare's plays, envy is associated with the color green.
Green is considered the traditional color of Islam. It is also the national color of Egypt. But don't create packaging or mail packages in green: It's not well-received.
In some Asian cultures the color green is often used as a symbol of sickness.
Green is a symbol of Ireland; green is a strong trend in the Irish holiday St. Patrick's Day.
While Westerns see white as the color of purity and innocence, in some Asian cultures ( China, Vietnam, and Korea), white is the color of death and mourning.
In India, people wear white after the death of a family member.
White is the traditional color of bridal dresses in Western cultures. A woman wearing white will be seen as a bride on a Western website, and as a person in mourning on an Eastern website.
White is also the color of snow and winter. Some associate snow with Christmas, forgetting that countries from the Southern hemisphere don't have snow during Christmas time.
A white pigeon is an international sign of peace; a white flag is an international sign of surrender.
Iran: mourning
In most parts of the world Blue is related with loyalty, Security and integrity.
China: immortality; workers' uniforms; blue-colored gifts are associated with death.
Hinduism: the color of Krishna.
Egypt: dark blue is a color of mourning.
Black is the color of power, sophistication, contemporary style, death, morbidity, evil, night in most cultures
Black is the color of mourning in Western cultures.
Black is also the most common color used for clothing for formal occasions; black is also worn by priests.
In the Japanese culture, until the nineteenth century, some women used to dye their teeth black because it was thought that black teeth would make a woman look beautiful.
The colors orange and black are the colors of Halloween because orange is the color of pumpkins and black is the color of night and darkness.
Orange is the national color of the Netherlands, referring to the royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau.
Orange is the brand used by France Telecom for its mobile network operator and Internet service provider subsidiaries.

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