Colour Psychology

October 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Design Practice In Context 2 Lecture 16/10/13

Our vision allows us to see 7 million colours. The primary colours are blue, red and yellow. Secondary colours are a mixture of primary colours – purple, orange and green. Then there are tertiary colours which are a mixture of primary and secondary colours – eg brown.

Colours mean different things in different cultures. Black and white go together hand in hand and quite often have the same connotations. Day, night, birth, death, good and evil  are all commonly associated with black and white.

Red is the oldest colour in all of culture’s societies. It also has the longest wavelength and goes past our retina which is why red is used often in warning signs – it immediately hits our vision. All stop signs across the world are red. It is one of the top chosen for favourite colours. 77% of flags have red on them. It is the symbol for good luck in Asia and marriage in India and Nepal.  It quickens the heart and releases adrenaline. Blood, lust, love, rage, murder and passion are all words related to red. The red coat sequence in Schindler’s List is a well known scene in a black and white film where the only colour is the girl’s red coat.


Orange came later into our culture because the fruit wasn’t available in our country initially. There was an issue in schools where projectors were stolen and started appearing elsewhere (like pubs and bars), so they started manufacturing them with orange covers so that it indicated that it was school property. Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay prison that are classed as non-compliant wear orange jumpsuits. Cheerfulness, Autumn, exotic, warm, extroverted are usually thought of with orange.

Yellow – we have a higher association with this colour.  The sun is often thought of with yellow – it is responsible to our survival. Common connotations of yellow are life, joy, cheerful, enlightenment, happy. It has an ease of perception which we do not get with other colours – this is to do with it’s brightness. However, illness, urine, wasps, harm and sickness can also represented by yellow. In Japan yellow represents courage; in Mexico it is associated with death.

Green shows decay, envy, life, nature, or stability. It is the colour of nature. Traditionally associated with nausea or poison, green has the greatest visibility. It can however be used as the colour of camouflage and night vision. Nowadays green is represented by recycling – it has become a verb “go green” by being environmentally aware. Traffic lights are green all over the world. Green in China represents infidelity. In Israel green means bad news.


Blue  shows coolness, tranquility, infinity, solitude, isolation, melancholy. In Germany it means to be drunk. A lot of corporate logos are blue.  Purple is deccadence, sensuality, luxury. Japan, China, South Korea all associate the colour with high quality.



This infographic shows the different colour/word associations in different countries. If you look at a section with all similar colours in it then look up the number at the side, it tells you which word is associated with those colours across the globe.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Colour Psychology at Tom Davidson.


%d bloggers like this: