Archive for September 1st, 2010


Colour Sensitive

September 1, 2010

Colour is a reflection of our identity, personality, culture and emotions. It has the power to affect us psychologically, whether we are conscious of it or not. In different cultures, colours have symbolic meanings attached to a certain culture. One good example as mentioned in Truly Madly Deeply is the colour white.

In Asian cultures such as Japan and China, white is symbolic of death, and is the colour worn during funerals. On the contrary, Western cultures associate white with purity, peace and harmony, often wearing white for special joyous occasions such as weddings. In the olden days, the bride often wears a red dress to signify prosperity and happiness. Wearing white at weddings would be unforgivable in those days. Today, however, this tradition and custom is blurred and not followed strictly. With globalisation and the increasing cross-cultural communication made possible, people are becoming more aware of the different cultures and customs that exist, and are becoming more open to variations in their own customs.

These days, even Chinese brides wear white wedding gowns, regardless of what white traditionally meant in their culture.

In the design world, it is important to consider the history of colour and what it means to different groups of cultures, as it has siginificant impact on how a brand is perceived. A lot of money would have gone into marketing a brand or a product, so there is no room for failure in terms of appealing to its target audience and getting a positive response.

A Japanese manufacturer learnt the hard way about the impact of choosing the wrong product colour. Their attempt to sell black scooters in India were met with a very poor response due to the fact that in India, black is often the colour associated with death. Superstitious mothers were forbidding their sons not to purchase black scooters as it was considered bad omen. However, the Japanese manufacturer changed tactics and introduced other colours, sales improved dramatically, proving that colour does matter.

Although people are more forgiving and open about traditional custom not being followed these days, it is still wise to be sensitive to what colours mean across different cultures. The last thing we would want to do is to offend someone. Be mindful. Be colour sensitive.


Truly Madly Deeply
Cross Cultural Meanings of Colour in Brand Design
April 28, 2010

USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education)
April, 1997