Color meanings and symbolism

Color is the lifeblood of visual communication, refreshing our synapses with bountiful riches that transcend far beyond the most ancient scriptures. It’s a language that has evolved over millions of years alongside Earth’s diverse ecosystems.

And now, it’s homo-sapiens who have the perception to harness its hidden secrets and meanings, opening up lines of communication that reach further into our consciousness than any other form of dialect. In this fascinating discussion, we will open up the airways and unveil the origins of what colors represent and the impact they will have on your projects. 

As designers and creatives, we understand the importance of color in our work. Color can evoke emotions, set the tone, and even convey a message without using words. Every color has its own meaning and symbolism, and it is important to understand how to properly use them in your designs. Whether you are working on a branding project, presentations, or creating a website, the use of color can greatly impact your design’s success. 

Color in history

Color plays an integral role in our lives, from sparking emotions to influencing our decision-making. Throughout history, they have been used to convey different messages, and understanding how color has been used in the past can help us better understand its impact on our present-day lives. From clothing to flags and buildings to branding, there is an underlying meaning behind each color that has helped shape the world we know today.

Ancient egyptians and the color of royalty 

The ancient Egyptians believed in the transformative power of colors. One of the most prominent colors in their civilization was purple, which was associated with royalty. The dye used to create the color was made from the murex sea snail, making it an incredibly rare and expensive pigment.

This color was only worn by the highest-ranking officials, including Pharaohs, to show off their social status and prestige. Today, the use of purple in brands such as Cadbury, Hallmark, and Crown Royal is a nod to the rich history of the color and its association with royalty.

Medieval times and the healing powers of blue

During the Middle Ages, blue was considered to have healing properties and was used to treat illnesses such as the plague. The color was linked to feelings of calmness, tranquility, and serenity. It was also associated with the Virgin Mary and the Church. Artists during this time used ultramarine to paint intricate stained glass windows, which can still be seen in cathedrals across the world today.

The industrial revolution and the birth of the color spectrum

The Industrial Revolution brought mass production and, in turn, the color spectrum. Dyes were being produced on a large scale, and with that came the need for a standardized color system. In 1855, Albert Munsell, an American painter, introduced a color system still in use today. The Munsell Color System categorizes colors by hue, value, and chroma, which has made it easier for artists and designers to communicate about color.

Color theory psychology in advertising

Colors have the power to evoke emotions, which is why companies often use color to sell their products through branding and advertising. This is called color psychology, a fundamental form of communication in advertising. For example, fast-food chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King use red and yellow to stimulate the appetite and create a sense of urgency to purchase. Blue is often used in the tech industry because it’s associated with trust and reliability. This concept of using colors in advertising has been around for decades, and continues to shape the way companies market their products today.

The future of color

As technology advances, so does the way we see and express color. With the rise of augmented and virtual reality, creating immersive color experiences has become increasingly important. Color customization is also becoming more popular to cater to consumer’s individual preferences, and sustainable dyeing methods are becoming increasingly popular to reduce negative environmental impacts. As we move towards a more digital future, it’s exciting to think about the innovative ways colors will continue to shape and influence our lives.

The varied meanings of color

Color holds an immense power in social, cultural, and personal contexts. The varied meanings of color encompass a kaleidoscope of emotions and messages that can be interpreted in different ways across societies.

From the celebratory reds of Chinese New Year to the somber black of funerals in Western cultures, they attach distinct color symbolism that influences our perceptions and behaviors. 

Additionally, colors bear psychological implications that often go unrecognized. For instance, studies suggest that blue and green tones have a calming effect on the psyche, while red and yellow hues are shown to evoke hunger and urgency, respectively.

As such, the understanding of color meanings is essential for designers, artists, marketers, and even policy-makers in creating effective messages, spaces, and products that resonate with people. 

By diving deep into the multifaceted meanings of color, we can unlock new ways of expressing ourselves, understanding others, and shaping our world.

The 10 most important color meanings

To harness the true power of color associations and each of their characteristics, let’s take a look at 10 of the most popular color choices and see what makes them the right choice for you and your creative projects. 

Purple color meaning

Purple color meaning

The color purple holds a deep, profound meaning that speaks to the soul and spirit. Symbolic of power and luxury, it has been historically associated with royalty and nobility. Its influence has even extended to religion, where it represents spirituality and, at times, mourning. In contemporary settings, purple is linked with creativity, mystery, and intuition. From majestic blooms to the rich velvet of royal robes, purple ignites a sense of awe and wonderment. Its impact on the human psyche is immeasurable, and it remains a true force to be reckoned with in the world of color.

Blue color meaning

Blue color meaning

Blue has long been associated with a range of emotions, from calm and tranquility to sadness and melancholy. However, this color holds a deeper meaning that goes beyond just a representation of mood.

In many cultures, blue symbolizes loyalty, trust, and wisdom. Its association with the vastness of the sea and the sky reminds us of the immense possibilities that lie ahead. Additionally, blue is often linked with communication, making it an ideal color choice for those in leadership positions. It’s no wonder that the color blue continues to inspire and influence people across the world.

Green color meaning

Green color meaning

From growth and renewal to nature and prosperity, green embodies a deep connection to the earth and everything that comes with it. It’s a color that is said to bring balance and harmony to the mind, body, and soul. From the lush greenery of a forest to the simple beauty of a blade of grass, green has a way of captivating our senses and inspiring us to live in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way.

Orange color meaning

Orange color meaning

The color orange is often associated with warmth, sunshine, and joy. It symbolizes enthusiasm, creativity, and success, making it a popular choice in marketing and branding. But there is more depth to this vibrant hue.

In Eastern cultures, orange is seen as a sacred color, representing spirituality and enlightenment. Within the chakra system, the orange energy symbolizes the sacral chakra, which governs our emotions and creativity. Orange envelopes us in a sense of motivation and exudes charisma and confidence. It’s truly a profound color that leaves a lasting impact.

Red color meaning

Red color meaning

Red is a vibrant and powerful color that represents a variety of meanings and emotions. From passion to danger to love and excitement, it’s no wonder why this hue is one of the most popular and widely recognized shades around the world. In color psychology, red is often associated with energy, strength, and determination, as well as ambition and confidence.

For centuries, it has been a symbol of power and importance, from the red flags waved by political parties to the crimson robes worn by royalty. Its ability to evoke strong emotions and feelings makes it a truly significant color in the world of design, fashion, and culture.

Yellow color meaning

Yellow color meaning

Yellow is a color that exudes energy, warmth, and optimism. It is often associated with the sun, positivity, and enlightenment. This vibrant hue is known for inspiring creativity, enhancing memory, and stimulating mental activity, making it a perfect color choice for classrooms and offices. The meaning behind yellow goes beyond its physical properties, as it represents hope, happiness, and confidence.

Yellow ignites the imagination, encourages self-expression, and promotes a sense of well-being. In essence, yellow is a color of empowerment, representing the power of positivity and the impact of brightness on our outlook on life.

Pink color meaning

Pink color meaning

Pink, a hue that radiates charisma, signifies more than mere superficial beauty. It passionately embodies love, nurturing warmth, and profound femininity. Pink, with its influential energy, sparks feelings of hope, positivity, and romantic sentiments.

It’s not just a color; it’s an enthusiastic affirmation of life, punctuating our world with its vibrancy. In its brighter shades, pink captures the essence of youthful exuberance and fun, a knowledgeable choice for conveying both calm and excitement.

Black color meaning

Black color meaning

Black, not technically a color but a shade, is often associated with power and sophistication, exuding an influential elegance. It embodies strength, authority, and profound depth. Black is also a symbol of mystery, providing a backdrop for the unknown.

Despite its sometimes negative connotations, it remains a charismatic choice in fashion and design, signifying formality and prestige. It’s not merely a color, it’s a statement, punctuating our world with its timeless, enthusiastic presence.

White color meaning

White color meaning

White holds a profound meaning that spans across cultures and time periods. It is known for its purity, innocence, and simplicity, often evoking a sense of calm and tranquility. In the world of color psychology, white is seen as the color of new beginnings, representing a fresh start, a clean slate, and clear intentions. It is also associated with honesty, spirituality, and enlightenment

Through art and design, white is used strategically to highlight contrast and create visual impact. From wedding colors to hospital walls, white continues to hold a place of relevance in our lives. Its charismatically pristine presence speaks volumes about its deep-rooted significance. 

But is white really a color? That’s a question that has puzzled people for years. While some argue that it is not a color because it’s the absence of all colors, others maintain that it is indeed a color because it can create an effect when combined with other colors.

But the truth is, white is all colors combined, and like its polar opposite cousin, black, it is technically on the shade spectrum and not a color. Find out more about its fundamental role in design by reading The meaning of the color white.

Combining colors

To create stunning results with color, it is highly recommended you get to grips with understanding the combination of colors. This will enable you to create highly communicative color schemes that convey messages on a deeper level.

Furtherstill, gaining an understanding of each color’s unique flavor will only bolster your approach to creating a color palette for your designs, just like baking a cake! Yet, for those keeping to a minimalist approach, using limited colors, such as monochrome or duotone methods, can also be beneficial.

Understanding the meanings and symbolism of different colors is essential to creating effective designs. By carefully considering the emotions and messages that different colors convey, you can create designs that resonate with your target audience and achieve your design goals.

So, the next time you start a new project, consider the power of color and how it can elevate your designs and set them apart from the competition.