Colors carry various meanings, across countries and cultures. Take our colorful quiz to see how well you know your favorite shades.
Have you ever been so angry that you saw red? Have you ever had the blues? From these two examples alone, we can see that colors carry meanings–be they emotional, symbolic, or mythological. Color meanings vary between cultures, with neighbors near and far having different understandings of the same shades.
Here, we explore what colors mean around the world. Take our quiz to see how much of an expert you are when it comes to deciphering international color codes.
An Introduction to Color Theory
Based on both the quiz and the brief introduction to this blog post, you now understand that colors can have a wide variety of meanings. They relate to each other in different ways, and combining colors will result in color schemes, each of which are full of their own symbolisms, as well. There’s a difference between the science and psychology of colors though.
According to The Interaction Design Foundation, color theory is the collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces.
Linked closely to color theory is color psychology, which is the study of how colors impact human behavior.
Both are critical for designers, creatives, and marketers at all levels to understand. Whether you’re building a website or your brand’s palette, it’s critical to understand how your color choices will communicate with potential customers.
Here, we dive a little deeper into color psychology and symbolism. A handful of colors convey big emotional impacts when used in imagery and design.
- Red: It’s the universal color of life. It incites strong emotions–be they anger, love, aggression, or passion. Incorporating this color into design is a bold choice that plants an emotional flag in the ground.
- Blue: This color can be seen as quite serene. It has calming effects, but it can sometimes convey more downtrodden, depressing feelings, too.
- Green: Have you ever been green with envy? While this color carries a wider variety of meanings, one of the emotions it calls to is feelings of jealousy.
Can you feel these emotions, just picturing these three colors in your mind? Surely, you can. Of course, other old idioms call emotional associations to mind, when thinking of colors within a Western context.
Outside of our culture, these shades can take on a whole new meaning. What do red, blue, and green mean elsewhere? Does the color black symbolize death in the East? Many of us may understand white to symbolize purity and innocence, but what does it mean on the opposite side of the world?
Below, we offer a look at what one color represents cross-culturally.
What Does the Color Black Mean Across Cultures?
Let’s look at a color that carries a ton of meanings around the world–black. In most Western cultures, the color black is symbolic of death. This likely has roots in Christian theology, with the reference of the universe being black before God created light, as just one example of its meaning to the faith.
In another religion, we see black symbolizing death through the Hindu goddess Kali, known as “She Who Is Black” or “She Who Is Death.” Alternatively, though, black can take on multiple meanings in the same culture. In India, a country that predominantly practices Hinduism, black is also a color of protection.
Within East Asian cultures, the color black takes on historical meanings. In China, the color is associated with winter and the cold. The first Emperor of China, when he took power, even stated that the imperial color was black. When it comes to martial arts, a black belt is the highest level of accomplishment an athlete can achieve.
Within Western culture, our first instincts may be to associate the color black with death. Of course, we can’t limit this color’s meanings. It’s mysterious, yes, but it’s also chic. In fashion, the phrase “the new black” describes something that’s so on-trend, it’s even more popular than the ever-favored dark clothing color standby.
This goes to show that just one color can carry multiple meanings, no matter the cultural context it’s used in. These meanings can vary widely around the world, too.
What Kind of Color Expert Are You?
How confident do you feel in your color theory and psychology capabilities? The good news is, no matter what level of knowledge you’re at, there are solutions to improve your skills.
At the end of our quiz, you may find free color palettes, templates for inspiration, and even a complimentary online photo editor to get started with designing right away. Find solutions personalized to your color and design expertise, and see how you can take your creativity to the next level.