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Color Symbolism and Culture

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What do Colors Symbolize?

Colors hold significance for people around the world. Not only do colors influence emotion, but they also hold meaning in religion and various cultures. On this page you will get answers to questions like, "What does the color red symbolize?" This questions is answered differently depending on where you are located in the world. If you don't see what you are looking for on this page, please put your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this page.


Western world:

Traffic lights: Red means stop, yellow means caution, and green means go. Yellow signs also warn drivers of upcoming curves, pedestrian crossings, and animal crossings.

 

Patriotism:

Most, if not all countries have a flag. The colors of each flag are usually seen as patriotic. Red, white, and blue symbolizes patriotism in the U.S.A.

 

Holidays:

Red and green are favorite Christmas colours. Colors of Autumn such as orange, brown, yellow and red are associated with Thanksgiving with black and orange associated with Halloween. Pastel colors are used for Easter. Because flowers are a common gift for Mother's Day, colors such as yellow, pink, and red are used frequently.

 

Color Symbolism Chart

 

Red: Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, all things intense and passionate, sincerity, happiness (Only in Japan)

 

Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm.

 

Beige and ivory symbolize unification. Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness. Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity.

 

Yellow signifies joy, happiness, betrayal, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard and friendship.

 

Blue: Peace, tranquility, cold, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, technology, depression, appetite suppressant.

 

Turquoise symbolizes calm. Teal symbolizes sophistication. Aquamarine symbolizes water. Lighter turquoise has a feminine appeal.

 

Purple: Royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, honor, arrogance, mourning, temperance.

 

Lavender symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance.

 

Orange: Energy, balance, enthusiasm, warmth, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant, demanding of attention.

 

Green: Nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy, misfortune, vigor.

 

Brown: Earth, stability, hearth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, simplicity, and comfort.

 

Gray: Security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, sadness, boring. Silver symbolizes calm.

 

White: Reverence, purity, birth, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical.

 

Black: Power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, unhappiness, depth, style, sadness, remorse, anger, anonymity, underground, good technical color, mourning, death (Western cultures), austerity, detachment.

Color Symbolism

Eastern World:

Marriage: White and pink are favorite just as in the western world.
Green: Eternity, family, harmony, health, peace, posterity
Happiness: Red
Helpful: Gray
Wealth: Blue, gold and purple
White: Children, helpful people, marriage,
mourning, peace, purity, travel
Gold: Strength, wealth
Evil or sadness- Just like in the western world- black.

Emotions:

Blue is seen as conservative. Red is power and aggression. Brighter colors such as yellow and orange represent warmth not only with emotions but also with temperature. Cool colors are blue, green, black or any color with a dark shade. When someone is feeling down or depressed, it is said they are feeling "blue." When someone is angry they "see red." When someone is seen to be afraid or "chicken" they are called "yellow."

 

Ecology:

Obviously green is the major color symbolizing ecology. The new phrase for people or companies who find ways to cut back on electricity, fuel, or things that damage the environment is "going green."

 

Phrases:

When something is seen as opposite, extreme, or a firm position, it is said to be "black or white." When something is not clear or not in a firm position, it is said to be a "gray area." The blues describe a form of music.

 

Religion:

Colours are also used in religious ceremonies or represent aspects of religion. Native Americans include colors in religious ceremonies. The Navajo Nation considers four colors to be important: Turquoise, white, yellow, and black. These colors represent four sacred mountains. The Apache Nation also considers four colors to be important: Green, white, yellow and black. These are sacred colors of the white mountain and are also used in government. The Iowa Nation also considers four colors to be sacred: Black, yellow, red and white. They represent direction, their flag, and what they consider to be four races of man. [1]

 

In Tibetan Buddhism, blue is the color of Vairochana, a celestial Buddha, whose image is the immensity of sky blue. [2] Buddhist monks wear orange (specifically the color saffron) robes primarily due to tradition. That was the least expensive color dye at the time and that is what they continued to wear. The robes themselves symbolize "simplicity and detachment of materialism." [3]

 

Green is the traditional color of Islam. The Islamic flag is green. Green is also mentioned in the Quran as the color of garments, cushions and carpets in paradise. [4]

 

In Hinduism, saffron is their most sacred color. Saffron represents fire that burns our impurities. Yellow represents knowledge and learning. The color green of the Maharashtra represents life and happiness. The color blue is like infinity like the vastness of the oceans and sky. [5]

 

In Christianity, the color red symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ and of sacrifice. White represents the body of Christ. Black represents sin in Catholic liturgy. Gray is the color of ash and this represents repentance in Catholicism. Purple is the liturgical color for the seasons of Advent and Lent. Heaven is described as having a lot of gold in buildings and streets. White and silver are used in liturgy during Christmas and Easter. [6]

 

Use in Medicine and Therapy:

Colors are sometimes used in therapy (Also called Chromotherapy). Colors have a huge effect on people who have brain disorders or who are emotionally troubled. The color blue has a calming effect on many people and lowers respiration and blood pressure. Red has the opposite effect. Some therapists use green to sooth and relax emotionally disturbed people who suffer from anxiety or depression. Some claim that the color violet is good for migraines and in "cases of cellulitis caused by a poor elimination, heaviness or sluggishness after eating, disorders of the spleen, bladder and kidney." [7] Yellow helps energize people and relieves depression.

 

Color in World Culture

Color means many different things to different people and cultures. We all have our own favorite colors. People like different colors like they like different foods. Color also represents feelings, people, countries, cultures, and color symbolism. In the western world, the color red is seen frequently of symbolizing anger or aggression. Some car insurance companies charge more for red cars because some of the owners of red cars are more aggressive or take more risks.

 

Books about Color

Black: The History of a Color.- Black-- favorite color of priests and penitents, artists and ascetics, fashion designers and fascists- has always stood for powerfully opposed ideas: authority and humility, sin and holiness, rebellion and conformity, wealth and poverty, good and bad. In this illustrated book, the acclaimed author of "Blue". now tells the fascinating social history of the color black in Europe.

 

Color and Meaning: Art, Science, and Symbolism.- Does color have an effect on our feelings? The phenomenon of color is examined in new ways in John Gage's latest book. His study is informed by the conviction that color is a contingent, historical occurrence whose meaning, like language, lies in the particular contexts in which it is experienced and interpreted.

 

Veiled Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya Color.- Veiled Brightness reconstructs what color meant to the ancient Maya, a set of linked peoples and societies who flourished in and around the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and Central America. By using insights from archaeology, linguistics, art history, and conservation, the book charts over two millennium of color use in a region celebrated for its aesthetic refinement and high degree of craftsmanship.

 

Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color.- This authoritative guide presents hundreds of color combinations and color principles needed to create effective designs. Every lesson is demonstrated by example, enabling designers of all specialties and levels of experience to make the best color choices for every type of design.


Lessons in Color

Links

More about color


Below you see a visual that illustrates the use of color in logo design. Each company wants to stimulate a specific emotion from customers and they use color as one of the main ingredients. How successful do you think these companies are at transforming your feelings about them?

Color Emotion Guide
Explore more visuals like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

 

 


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