Colour Schemes – Cultural Differences Around The World
The world is certainly a smaller place to exist in. And, given the reach of information and communication technology, the globe is shrinking and coming closer than never before. Businesses are extending their presence beyond geographic boundaries, thanks to conventional as well as digital marketing efforts ably supported by graphic design. Colourful, relevant and captivating advertisements are the key to successful marketing campaigns, and graphic design today addresses both the print and the electronic media.
Although colour has a universal reach, cultural influences across the world determine the meaning and significance of each colour. It means that the same colour may be interpreted differently in several parts of the world. Hence, its appeal and acceptance, especially when used for marketing purposes is quite important. It is important for graphic designers to understand the underlying regional connotations of colour, and accordingly tone down or accentuate its use to create a positive impression towards a business, concept or brand being promoted. Right from website themes and brand logos to large prints and electronic displays, it is important to choose the right colours, especially when promoting an international brand or a local brand on a global level.
Whilst this is a subject that needs careful research and implementation, there are a few general rules which can apply to a large regional area and should be taken into consideration.
White – Represents purity, peace, chastity and nobility across the world. However, the colour is symbolic of grief, funerals, and unhappiness mainly in Eastern and Asian cultures.
Black – Black though symbolic of evil, sorcery, death and mourning in American and European cultures, it also is a mark of professionalism and class. Black is a symbol of masculinity and strength in China and Latin America.
Purple – A colour of royalty, wealth and honour in Western, Eastern and Asian countries, it is a colour of mourning in Thailand, South and Latin America. Widows in Thailand are clad in this colour.
Blue – Blue is received with a mixed reaction across all cultures. On one hand, the colour symbolises infinity, heaven and calm; it also indicates monotony, depression, and grief. It is often associated with boys, while in China the colour is treated as feminine; blue is a corporate, professional colour used to convey trust and sincerity. The majority of police forces around the world use blue for this reason.
Green – Eastern and Asian cultures associate green with fertility, nature, Islam, military; and in America, green translates as money or jealousy. South and Latin Americas relate green with death and mourning, while China sees the colour as an indication of infidelity.
Yellow and Orange – Both these colours are symbolic of royalty, warmth and hope in general. While Latin America and Egypt see yellow as a colour of grief, yellow reflects jealousy in Germany. Orange symbolises grief and loss in the Middle East.
Red – Red has a universal connotation of danger, anger, power, passion and rebellion in the West. It is considered a colour of good luck, fortune and prosperity in Eastern and Asian cultures. Red is certainly one of the most divisive but powerful choices of colour.
Appropriate choice of solid colours and shades to cater to regional and cultural sensitivities is crucial to the success of graphic designs. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a three-colour abstract logo or you’re designing an entire corporate colour scheme to decorate an entire building; addressing the connotation of each shade and hue is paramount to creating the right brand message.
Chloe Impney works on the digital marketing and branding team of Promo Lanyards. Since her employers began shipping internationally, Chloe was charged with researching the meanings and associations of colours in foreign culture and has become very interested in the topic.