What Does Culture Have To Do With Color?

Presented by Sherwin-Williams

Color Surrounds Us…
• In environments both natural and manmade • New colors/color palettes • Lines between fashion, interiors, technology, art, sustainability & industry are merging • No longer a single set of personal characteristics or shared values to help us understand color • Now a melting pot of global life experiences and symbolism Question: How can designers define appropriate color schemes to satisfy the multi-cultural aspect of the clients their designs will serve?

How Does Color Affect Us?
• • • • • Excites Depresses Soothes Angers Inflames


Does color have the same affect on all of us regardless of our backgrounds and experiences?

“Culture”: What is it?
“The accumulated habits, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of people that define for them their general behavior and way of life; the total set of learned activities of a people”.
Information Department U.S. Department of State

“Generally referring to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significance.”

Culture: What is it?
• Ethnic societies • Like-minded groups
– Groups with like-life experiences & values; i.e., Baby Boomers or Millenials – Groups with climatic conditioning – Educated vs. Non-educated – Gender

• What significance does “accumulated habits, experiences, attitudes and beliefs” place on color? • Are we more influenced by color because of our ethnic backgrounds or our life experiences or the accident of birth? • Is it possible that we could be influenced by color because of our own personal experiences with certain colors in certain circumstances?

Responses to Color
Affected by:
– Culture
• For most people yellow has generally cheerful overtones • To an Asian, yellow may represent an imperial color • To Western culture, yellow may be associated with cowardice, babies cry more often in a yellow room, and older people shun yellow as their eyes yellow with age

– Our experience of color in daily lives


What does culture have to do with color? And, most importantly, why does it matter to designers?

Class Contents
• • • • • Define the different cultures History of cultural effects on color Ethnic effects on color Effect of globalization on color How culture impacts color for the designer

“Designers must define the ‘face of the user’.”
Dr. Denise A. Guerin

Faces of the Users
• • • • • • • Culture of age Culture of gender Culture of class Culture of education Culture of climate Culture of experience Culture of ethnicity

Culture & Color
Remember: Culture can be determined to include any group with like-life experiences & values
– Age influences color selections as well as gender: men/women view color differently – Financial means influences color perception: affluent are attracted to different colors than those less affluent – Color schemes in colder climates differ from those in warmer climates – Educated individuals see colors from a different perspective than those less educated – People are also influenced by colors depending upon their own personal experiences

Culture & Color
Question: How is the designer responsible for the color selections of assembly areas, institutional facilities, hospitality and healthcare facilities or any other space that is used by multiple people supposed to decide what is appropriate or more importantly what is appealing to these groups of people, most of them falling into several different cultural entities?

There is a definite understanding of and acknowledgement of similar color choices as they apply to these different cultures.

Culture of Age

Culture of Age: Children
Tend to prefer: • Brighter, splashier, more solid colors

– Cartoons – Toys – Brighter the better

Culture of Age: Youth/Teens
• More open to experimenting with color • Young men more likely than their fathers to buy hot pink ski gear • Crayola crayons in 120 hues, along with advanced computer graphics, make youth’s preference unusually sophisticated
Note: in color theory, "sophisticated" describes a color created by a complex mixture of pigments, e.g., deep maroon.

Culture of Age: Youth/Teens
• Preferences are also influenced by the cultural context in which they come of age • Each generation has its own history
– Values, ideals, cultural trends and ethnic influences

• Today they are surrounded by many more cultures – more open to cultural influences which bears out in color preferences
– Offbeat combinations, glitter, translucence, pearlescence and metallics

Culture of Age: Adults
• Less open to experimenting with colors than youth • Tend to prefer more subdued colors • 65-89 yr. olds
– Primary, secondary & tertiary colors vs. pastels - yellow is least favored

Culture of Gender: His/Hers
• Western cultures: blues for baby boys
– May influence men’s preferences for cool blues and greens (dark & light)

• Western cultures: pinks for baby girls
– May influence women’s preference for warm red and orange (think lipstick)

Culture of Gender: His/Hers
Research test (171 young British men & women) required to quickly select of preferred color from series of colored rectangles – result: universal favorite color = blue
– – A special preference by women for blue with red mixed in catalogued pink and violet as favorite colors for the girls Differences were pronounced – investigators were able to predict the sex of some participants based on their profile of chromatic preferences

Smaller group of Chinese tested – result: same
– suggesting a universal female preference for pink

Culture, as well as biology, definitely has impact on color choices.

Culture of Gender: His/Hers
• Gender differences fading • American Demographics/ BuzzBack survey:
– Men/Women agree on exterior house paint colors – Convergence apparent in car colors

• Roles have loosened, business attire has changed • Sports uniforms in teal and purples are being worn by men

Culture of Gender: His/Hers
• Girls are girls & boys are boys is being replaced with much more crossover • Context is important
– No pink for GI Joe – Diesel – pink men’s clothing – Yes!

• Gender is less important for spaces geared to the younger population
- Richard Brandt Exec. Creative Director Landor Associates

Culture of Gender: His/Hers
Interesting theories from “The Meaning of Color for Gender” by Natalia Khouw
– Blue stands out for men much more than for women. – Men prefer blue to red, women red to blue. – Men prefer orange to yellow, women yellow to orange. – Women's color tastes are thought to be more diverse than men's.

Culture of Socio-Economic Class
Subject taboo in America
Consider U.S. society class-free or based solely on hard-won personal wealth and achievement

Marketers know otherwise
•Social class reflected in an array of signals
• Speech patterns • Clothing • Hair styles • Product preferences, etc.

• Use the signals to impress an audience
• NASCAR enthusiasts vs. opera enthusiasts

Culture of Socio-Economic Class
MARKET RESEARCH: RESEARCH • Working class – prefer colors you can name (blue, red, green, etc. – basic rainbow colors) • Wealthier class – prefer more obscure colors (taupe, azure, mauve, etc.)

This is why Target does their store logo in bright red.

Culture of Socio-Economic Class

• Holiday Inns (to upscale image) eliminated all orange from their image except the dot of the “i” – increased dark green (considered a classier color) • Less expensive hotels – reverted to rainbow blue with yellow and orange highlights
Very different from Hyatt’s dark blue and taupe.

Culture of Socio-Economic Class
• Kraft Cheese vs. Briton’s Stilton logos
– Which costs more? – Reason: appeal to targeted audiences

• Greyhound Bus vs. Braniff Airlines
– Products and price targeted to certain socio-economic groups – Not to say that lower and higher do not avail themselves of both types of products

• Consider differences in palettes for sports arenas, performing arts centers, upscale boutiques and outlet malls, airports and bus stations.
– Brighter, warmer, more primary colors – lower socioeconomic appeal – Darker, more complex or sophisticated colors – higher socio-economic appeal

Culture of Education
• Studies show blue collar workers prefer simple colors • Not just the level of wealth, but the greater the level of education creates a distinction
Education does not compute to more wealth, but there is a distinction between groups with higher levels of education.

Culture of Education
Today’s youth with their appreciation of complex, sophisticated color exemplify the culture of education • Knowledgeable
• Aware • More access to the world and its information than counterparts of 10 yrs. ago

Culture of Education
Studies show, the more educated, the more sophisticated the taste, including color • Subtle color mixes • Deeper tones, more elegant tints • More interesting color palettes; i.e.,
– Harvard University website – Library of Congress Concert website vs. Skip Barber’s Racing School

Culture of Education
Those less educated tend toward simpler, more straight forward colors
Note: Transition from less sophisticated colors to more sophisticated, complex colors
Young people today are much better educated at an earlier age due to the availability of information. Depending on target audience for a facility, the color scheme will have a major effect on audience appeal.

1962, ©Marvel Comics 1995, ©Marvel Comics Wikipedia.org Wikipedia.org

Culture of Climate
People respond differently to color depending upon the climatic conditions where they live
– Scandinavians preference for light yellows, bright whites and sky blues (relief for their long winter nights) – San Franciscans generally aren’t fond of gray (relief from foggy overcast) – Miamians gray is a popular color

Many articles on color psychology limit differences to east and west, but the differences are more geo-local than that.

Culture of Climate
Generally: • People who live in warm climates prefer bright, strong colors • People who live in colder climates prefer cooler, more washed out colors • Context changes things:
– Vacationers from cold areas may be attracted by warmer colors

Culture of Climate

Marriott, Buenos Aires These 3 Marriott Hotels are indicative of the types of color schemes popular in their respective locations.

Marriott, Copenhagen

Marriott, Zurich

Culture of Climate
Some tastes are based on environmental factors: • Hispanics’ preferences for bright colors is a reflection of the intense lighting conditions in Latin America
– Strong colors keep their character in strong sunlight – In northern climates these colors can appear harsh

• Colors that look great in warm, tropical locations won’t necessarily produce the same results in cold, gray northern climates
– A navy blue suit would appear awkward in Miami, but be more suited for New York or Boston

Designers should take climate into consideration when selecting colors for geographic areas. International hotel chains would do well to change colors depending on where they are located rather than carry out a corporate color theme.

Culture of Experience
• Color trends are a mirror of human emotions and experiences • Experiences are shared ones – people who grow up in different time frames naturally respond to color trends of their time • May be attracted to or repelled by those colors, but a generational impact is seen globally

Culture of Experience
Factors that have influenced color throughout history and generations:
– Economy – Social – World Events – Technology

Culture of Experience
Research compiled by Sherwin Williams deals with the cultural effects of color on the four current generations: 1. Mature 2. Baby Boomers 3. Generation X’ers 4. Millennials

Culture of Experience: Mature
• Over 65 • May be retired, less active, spend more time indoors
– Seek color combos that are functional, enjoyable and comfortable – Fresh, cheerful ones such as buttery yellow, clear blues, fresh pinks and warm whites are preferred – Cleaner hues of jade green, preferable to avocado

Culture of Experience: Boomers
• 76 million, born 1945-1964 • Seek self-expression and spirituality in color • Home is a sanctuary, place for artistic expression, relaxation and inspiration • Soothing colors that cool and refresh the spirit
– Sky blue azures, cleansing blues enhanced with purple tones, and intense iridescent blues with the slightest tinge of green – Favorite neutrals are chameleon shades that take on the undertones around them: grays married with plum or green – Perhaps yellow-green undertones that bridge the gap from gray to beige

Culture of Experience: Generation X’ers
• Born 1964-1980 • Remember the fall of Berlin wall, but have lived primarily in a global economy • Experiment with styles from around the world – strong acceptance of global color palette – Popular colors include violet and indigo hues – Exotic greens from the Australian landscape – Asian reds add drama to neutral spaces awash in contrasting textures

Culture of Experience: Millennials
• • • • Born 1981Cool sophistication is design goal Faux finishes useful for drama Children delight in rich, tropical hues and neon-like colors; i.e., green, yellow and purple • Sports team colors and flower garden shades are always popular for children’s spaces, along with murals and other whimsical colors

Culture of Experience
• Reactions to color are psychologically and culturally induced to some degree • Age makes a difference in how people respond to color • Color preferences change over time as people move through the life cycle • When the economy is down, pessimism reigns – Colors gravitate to dirty, muddy undertones • When the economy is up, optimism reigns – Colors gravitate to cleaner, clearer colors

History of Cultural Effects on Color
(last 100+ years)
• Symbolic effects occur as the result of communicated, not necessarily personal experiences • Sensory experiences, such as color, gain abstract meaning and develop sign value • Within the framework of intercultural communications, the passing of such information from one generation to the next would make this a cultural experience

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1800’s)
• Queen Victoria made it fashionable to be a widow
– dark, somber, and opulent Victorian colors permeated Western culture

• Red, blue and gold were representative of the Empire Period influenced by military campaigns of Napoleon
– Empire Green associated with Empress Josephine

• Last several decades, cultural experience had an impact on color palettes of the time and thus on respective generations of those times

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1900’s)
• Century began with complete change from the heavy Victorian colors
1900s 1910s

– Whites, mauves, sweet pea, gray, fawn and rose toned pastels were the quiet colors of the time

• 2nd decade influenced by modern art of the Fauves and the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists
– Palette of primary colors and Russian colors of mustards, yellows, violets and blues introduced by the Ballet Russes – gave way to khakis, navy blues, browns and grays as World War I cut off the supply of dyes from Germany

Early 1920s

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1920’s & 1930’s)
• 20’s saw a subdued color palette as a rebellion against the bright colors of the previous decade
– Beige and white used predominately by fashion designers like Chanel ushered in a decade that also saw the use of black lacquer finishes and shiny metallics


• Subdued color carried over into the depression years of the early 30’s
– All shades and tints of white from bright white to creams to beiges

• 1934 color began to creep into use again
– Palettes of cocoa brown with hyacinth blue, mustard yellow with gray and prune with turquoise – These colors are undergoing a recent revival

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1940’s)
• 1940 - World War II – dyes no longer ransomed by Germany • Strong colors were morale boosters in the early war years
– Bright colors of cherry red, tulip pink, orchid mauve, shrill peacock blue, yellow and grey

• Dyes were rationed
– Reds and blacks gave way to khaki or olive and bright reds became muted plums and neutrals like warm beiges and grays

• Post World War II
– soft and gentle colors of Dior and the strong colors, scarlets, yellows and magentas of Spanish designer, Balenciaga

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1950’s)
• Post World War II – 1950’s – time of optimism
– Hot pink and very hot pink and primary colors were also the mark of the new modernism – Turquoise, a color which had to date been made from inferior dyes that did not last, became a major color sensation when “kingfisher blue” dye was perfected by the Bayer Company in Germany

• End of the decade made the 50’s a gaudy decade
– Dyes and pigments such as orange, pistachio, reds, golds and the new turquoise were found to color the new plastics

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1960’s)
• Youth culture erupted: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll • Psychedelic drugs turned people on to color • Technological development of dramatic range of dyestuffs – allowed mass production of heretofore expensive colors
– Indigo blue of jeans became a classic color – Ethnic colors of Peruvian peasants and North American Indians – Oriental colors from Russia, Japan and Turkistan appeared at the end of the decade – Black became beautiful

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1970’s)
• Recession brought a retreat into safe, sober earth colors, and the dreaded "A" word of both fashion and interior designers – avocado • African-Americans became more aware of their heritage adopting African patterns and colors – earth tones
– Peach, beige and chocolate brown gained popularity and beige and cream were so popular that it invaded everything

• Disco and the arrival of high tech at the end of the decade changed the earth tones
– Red, royal blue, saffron yellow, turquoise and brilliant acid green – Silver, gold and metallic colors gave a glittery look to this trend

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1980’s)
• Economic upturn brought a return to vibrant color
– Nancy Reagan's signature red became popular – Giving way to “Barbara Bush blue”

• End of the decade
– Giorgio Armani's sophisticated neutrals provided Yuppies with a quieter alternative to all-out glitz – In homes, consumers who had OD'd on avocado and spice tones, became mad for mauve, the peach and teal color schemes of the 80's

History of Cultural Effects on Color (1990’s)
• • • • • • Economic downturn at end of 80’s became an opening for the dirtied colors of Seattle's "grunge" movement Mid-90’s digital revolution gave way to the eye-popping colors of the iMac®. Urban street styles, body piercing and tattooing became mainstream among young culture
– Green hit its vibrant zenith in the '90s with lime green and chartreuse

End of 90’s saw Minimalism become strong; i.e., Jil Sander's fashions, Calvin Klein's Zen-influenced home collections Dotcoms began to crumble - Millennium Bug threatened People felt the need to stop, escape – spas booms and designer water flowed
– Cerulean Blue, the color of sea and sky, became the color

History of Cultural Effects on Color (2000’s)
• Minimalist influence continued into the new century
– Neutral or deeper colors for big ticket items, but accessories bring touches of color – All grays, beiges and taupes are not created equal, and even white has hundreds of subtle variations

NOTE: Gen-Xers who were born between 1961 and 1980 are now headed
toward 60’s retro in colors and patterns • Generations who feel threatened tend to gravitate to the safe times and the colors of that time • Designing for a Gen X audience? Look into the popular colors of their formative years

Culture of Ethnicity
• Different ethnic groups or different countries of the world • Ethnic culture has always and continues to influence color selections
– – – – Political (flag colors, political parties) Religious (sacraments, vestments) Historic (taboos, associations) Environmental (desert, mountainous, coastal) – Traditional (beliefs and symbolism)

Culture of Ethnicity
• Ethnic cultures: typically think East/West • East/West have perhaps the greatest differences • Cultural traditions regarding black and white
– Western sees black as a color of mourning and depression - respects it as dignified and authoritative – Eastern (China, most of Asia) sees white as the color of mourning

Culture of Ethnicity
• Cultural difference of Black vs. White could have ramifications when designing specifically to or to include an Asian or Eastern culture
• EuroDisney made a disastrous mistake by using the color purple for its European signage which was intended to outdo Coca Cola’s red – In Catholic Europe, purple symbolizes death and the crucifixion of Christ – Result: Visitors thought the signs were morbid – How did it happen? CEO liked purple.

Ethnic Effects on Color

The global market today is multi-national….

Ethnic Effects on Color
• Age, gender, climate, even education and experience have effects on color selection • While considered to be somewhat across ethnic cultures, the global market today is also multinational • Can add some confusion for designers choosing color palettes for spaces that must serve all these cultural diversities

Ethnic Color Overview
Western Europe & United States Danger, Anger Stop Caution, Cowardice, Joy, Happiness Masculinity, Calm, Authority Death, Evil Sexual Arousal, Safe, Sour, Go Purity, Virtue China Joy, Festive Occasions, Luck Honor, Royalty Strength, Power, Immortality Japan Anger, Danger Grace, Nobility, Childish, Gaiety India Middle East Danger, Evil Happiness, Prosperity

Red Yellow Blue Black Green White



Protective Mystery, Evil Fertility, Strength Purity, Mourning

Evil Youth, Growth Mourning, Humility

Evil Future, Youth, Energy Death, Mourning

This chart shows an overview of how each of these colors is perceived in these cultures.

• Color of blood – relates to life itself • Associated with fire, energy, passion, love • Also associated with rage and war • Red is a universal color • Studies involving 8 countries show red as the only color seen as unique
– All countries associated red with active, hot, emotional and vibrant

• Highest arc of the rainbow • First color lost sight of at twilight • Longest wavelength of light is red

• Red has strong connotations in several countries
– Aztecs’ red dye was considered more valuable than gold

• Red always attracts attention
– First color named after black and white

• Red represents danger – triggers a fight or flight response
– We may not flee from red, but we definitely pay attention to it

General: warm, passion, anger, aggression, blood • China: good luck, happiness, celebration • Japan: sacred, wealth • Hebrews: sacrifice, sin • Hindu: joy, life, energy, creativity • Cherokees: success, triumph • India: purity, fertility, prosperity • South Africa: color of mourning • Russia: Bolsheviks and communism, beauty • United States: Republican party • Eastern: worn by brides • Western: excitement, danger, love, passion, stop, Christmas (with green)

• Color of love, friendship, compassion and relaxation • Symbolic of gentle emotions • Soft color overcomes evil, represents honor, love, morality, friendship, and general success. • Fidelity, honor, harmony, compassion and faithfulness are all traits of pink. • Feng Shui color to soothe the energy • It is the international symbol for breast cancer awareness

General: sweet, morality, love • Korea: trust • Japan: good health and life, masculine • Belgium: little boys (opposite of traditions in other western cultures) • Hindu: heart chakra • Eastern: marriage • Western: love, babies (especially female babies), Valentine's day

• Positive: Color of quick intellect, the quick-witted, and those who seek wisdom • Negative: dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard, treachery, and aging • Chinese have placed a predominance upon the color yellow not seen elsewhere in the world • Western cultures it is mainly seen as joy or happiness – “Smiley” face dating back to the 60’s is still a
popular icon of happiness

General: sun, light, optimism • China: nourishing, royalty • Polynesia: royalty and divinity • Egypt: color of mourning • Japan: courage, life • India: merchants, yellow and saffron yellow (a yellow-orange) are sacred and auspicious colors • Israel: used to label Jews in the middle ages (Hitler revived this tradition in the 20th century) • Cherokee: trouble and strife • Islam: perfect faith • Greece: sadness • France: jealousy • Russia: traditional wedding color • Western: hope, hazards, coward

• Favorite color of over half the world’s population • It is potentially weak as a symbol because it is considered non-threatening • Least disliked color by all cultures and is considered to be the safest global color • Greeks paint their front door blue for protection from evil spirits • In Israel, light blue and white are the national colors but commercial exploitation of these colors is disapproved of • In China and the U.S., “Blue Film” is for pornography
• Originated in pre-revolutionary China when brothels were painted blue to advertise prostitutes within

General: calmness, peace, sky, sadness • Cherokee: defeat, trouble • China: immortality, "blue film" for pornography • Japan: everyday life • Korea: mourning • Iran: heaven and spirituality • Egypt: virtue, ward off evil • Mexico: trust, tranquility, mourning • Belgium: blue is for a baby girl; pink for a baby boy (a reversal of traditions in other western cultures) • United States: dependability, trust, authority • Western: depression, sadness, conservative, corporate, reliability, “something blue" bridal tradition

• Second only to blue as a favorite color • Tranquil, refreshing, quiet and natural • Institutional side conjures negative emotions
• Illness, government issued green cards

• In Spain, the color of off-color or “racy” jokes and green glass bottles is considered tacky

General: nature, tranquil, hope, fertility, spring, rebirth, money, grass • China: green hats (indicate man's wife is cheating on him), exorcism, jade stones represent virtue and beauty • Japan: fresh and youthful new life, symbol of life eternal • India: Islam • Ireland: symbol of the entire country, Irish Catholics of south • Islamic (Muslim) cultures/Middle East: life, Islam • Israel: bad news • Saudi Arabia: wealth and prestige • United Kingdom: “British racing car green" (is a dark green symbolic of high-speed and high-performance cars) • Western: spring, new birth, go, Saint Patrick's Day, Christmas (with red), jealousy

• Orange is the color of sunset, orange juice, pumpkins, and generally warm and friendly things • Sparks more controversy than any other color – “Love it” or “hate it” for most cultures – Rust, terracotta and peach, generally well-liked • In America, somewhat the color of “cheap” – Native Americans associate the color with kinship

General: warm, sunset, energy, creativity • China and Japan: happiness and love • India: humility and sacrifice • Hindus: a supreme being • Ireland, England: religious (Protestants) • Netherlands: emblematic color of royal family, festive color • United States: most hated color • Latinos and France: strong appeal • Western: Halloween (with black), creativity, Autumn

• Gold in nature represents precious metal that bears the name • Internationally, gold symbolizes:
– – – – – – – – Wealth Excellence Prestige Prosperity Nobility Divinity Extravagance Pretentiousness

General: sun, treasure, wealth • Eastern: wealth, strength, darker gold • Japan: lavish displays garish • China, Thailand: wealth and prestige • Iran: very popular color • United Kingdom: royalty, sometimes low-class • Western: wealth, lighter gold

• Embodies the balance of red’s stimulation and blue’s calm • Can cause unrest or uneasiness unless the undertone is clearly defined • Often well liked by very creative or eccentric types • Favorite color of adolescent girls • Purple is a color people love or hate • Pakistani as well as Mexican men dislike purple • Symbolizes: dignity, sophistication, elegance, passion, spirituality, mysticism and magic, royalty, conceit, cruelty and mourning

General: spirituality, dignity, mourning • China, Peru: not popular, avoid in Peru • Japan: wealth and position, privilege • Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Tudor Britain: color of mourning (widows) • Tibet: sacred • Iran: color of “what is to come”, mysticism • India: soothing, sorrow • Ukraine: fasting, patience, trust • Egypt: virtue, faith • Brazil: symbolizes death • Italy: death, martyrs, suffering • United Kingdom: prestige, royal funerals • Latin America: may be regarded as despicable • United States: bravery, courage (military) • Eastern: wealth • Western: royalty

• Doctors don white coats, some brides traditionally wear white gowns, and a white picket fence surrounds a safe and happy home • Color of the dove of peace • Can also connote sterility and blandness • Off-white is a neutral • Pure white considered a brilliant color
– Capable of producing optical fatigue – Highly visible to the human eye

• Most religions use it to indicate spirituality, hope and innocence • Universally, the color of the flag of surrender

• • • • • • • • • • • General: purity, snow, surrender, positive Asia: color of mourning in most Asian cultures China: death, mourning (use with caution) India: extreme happiness Japan: white carnation symbolizes death; also sacred, purity, brides Africa: victory and purity Italy: worn at funerals of children Eastern: funerals, helpful people, children, marriage, mourning, peace, travel Cherokee: peace and happiness West Indies: mourning Western: brides, angels, good guys, hospitals, doctors, peace (white dove)

Black Black
• Black is authoritative and powerful • Can evoke strong emotions • Represents the absence of light, therefore darkness • Spotting a black cat, is considered good luck in England • Symbolic of power, sophistication, evil, death and depression – can be mysterious and secretive

General: death, evil, dignity, mourning • China: color for young boys • Japan: unknown, bad luck, elegance, class • India: untouchables (should be avoided) • Thailand: suffering, decomposition • Great Britain: mourning, dignified clothing, taxis • Spain: wealth • Yugoslavia: clothing of the old • Egypt: rebirth (contrary to Western culture) • Aztec: war, religion • United States: power, death, evil, power color in business attire • Western: funerals, death, mourning, Halloween (with orange), bad guys, rebellion

• Gray is the color of intellect, knowledge, and wisdom • Perceived as long-lasting, classic, and often as sleek or refined • Is dignified, conservative, and carries authority • Is controlled and inconspicuous • Considered a color of compromise, perhaps because it sits between the extremes of black and white • A perfect neutral • Can signify bareness, fraud and poverty • Most cultures: associated with contemporary architecture and technology • Most popular color in the world for a car

General: subtlety, balance, intellect, cold • Asia, Pacific Rim: may signify cheapness • Japan: maturity, conservatism, old age • Eastern: helpers, travel • Germany: sophisticated national product • United States: may signify expensive, restrained elegance • Western: boring, dull, plain, sad

• Brown says stability, reliability and approachability • Color of earth and associated with all things natural or organic • Can stand for Autumn or despair • Symbolizes durability, dependability, security and comfort, friendliness, warmth, hominess, and wholesomeness • Can also be perceived as lack of humor, lack of sophistication, heaviness and dullness

General: stability, comfort, humility, dull • Japan: admired as a natural color • India: mourning • Australian Aboriginals: color of the land • Cherokee: good • Colombia: said to discourage sales • Buddhism, Christianity: humility • American Indians: power of selfdiscipline • Western: wholesome, earthy, dependable, steadfast, health

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
• Great deal of variations in the subtleties of various colors • Cultures’ meanings and symbols discussed are based on purely saturated color • Colors also vary in several different ways:
– – – – hue (red vs. orange vs. blue) chroma (saturation or intensity) value (brightness or dullness) and finish (gloss or flat)

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
• Hue = the name of the color
– First complexity seen in trying to determine cultural significance

• Some color words derived from the name of an object of that color - “orange” or “salmon” • Others are abstract, like red • Overlooking language barriers, not all cultures recognize the same distinct colors • Color table should not be interpreted as a definitive list • Pure spectral colors form a continuous spectrum and how it is divided is a matter of culture, taste and language

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
Common spectral list identifies six main bands
– – – – – – Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Violet

NOTE: different cultures have different terms for colors and may assign some color names to slightly different parts of the spectrum. One Chinese character has a meaning that covers both blue and green, thus blue and green are traditionally considered shades of this single character. When trying to interpret cultural significance to any hue, be sure to research to see if the same nomenclature is recognized in that culture as you understand it.

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture

Hue refers to the name of the color and varies from culture to culture…

Azure Blue U.S.

Azure Heraldry

Azure France

Azure Gr. Britain

Azzurro Italy

Azure Russia

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture

Chroma: The

intensity of a specific color, identified by its tonal value

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
• Across ethnic cultures:
– Females prefer pastel colors, pale and subdued mid-tones, and warm rather than cool and deep shades – Males preferred brilliant hue tints, light full colors, and cool rather than warm and grayed shades – Children and, in most cases, primitive societies prefer more saturated tones than do older cultures

• All cultures generally associate more saturated tones with activity and inexpensive and fast

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
• Research shows that African Americans and Hispanics prefer more saturated tones • Japanese generally prefer more muted tones • Globalization has begun to show more intense colors in Asian cultures • A color scheme can be grayed or brightened slightly to overcome negative connotations, in some cultures
– Check this possibility when choosing color schemes where some colors have strong affects

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
Value is a measure of

where a particular color lies along the lightness– darkness axis….which places the color on a scale from utter black to pure white.
Light colors are called tints and dark colors are called shades.

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
“Change the value and tint … [and] you’ll alter its meaning
and emotional response.” James Smith, principal of Smith Design in Carmel, CA says, offering by way of example the commonly perceived differences between lighter blue— which, he says, can communicate such things as “refreshment”—while darker shades are often associated with “seriousness, stability and trustworthiness.”

Hue, Chroma, Value in Culture
• Traditionally, men and women have had different tastes in color
– women drawn to tints or lighter colors – American men, compared with Europeans, have traditionally avoided tints in favor of darker, richer neutrals and blues

• American Demographics/BuzzBack survey
– 10% of people 55 years and older want the brightness of a white car, compared to – 4% of 21- to 34-year-olds, compared to – 2% of teens

• Tints and shades of colors like the chromatic intensity can completely change the perception of a color
. Lexus, which skews toward older buyers, makes sure that 60% of its cars are light in color

Culture and Color Palettes

"Color, Meaning, Culture, and Design: Meaning and Preference of Interior Color Palettes among Four Cultures," from a study by Youngsoon Park and Denise Guerin, PhD

Culture and Color Palettes
• Culture does have an impact on color • Color meaning generally studied as it related to only one color • The complexity is derived from the fact that people see all the colors in a space at once and how they relate to one another

"Color, Meaning, Culture, and Design: Meaning and Preference of

Interior Color Palettes among Four Cultures," from a study by Youngsoon Park and Denise Guerin, PhD

Culture and Color Palettes
An instrument (see reference below) to study the meaning of color in interior environments based on color palettes among 4 cultures (European-based countries: U.S. or England vs. Asian-based countries: Korea or Japan) found: 1. Create a color palette that includes neutral or cool hues, light values with high contrast, weak chroma when designing for Japanese users. 2. Create a color palette that includes neutral hues, middle values, weak chroma, and medium to high contrast when designing for Korean clients. 3. Create a color palette that includes warm hues, middle values, moderate chroma, and medium to low contrast for English clients. 4. Create a color palette that includes warm hues, middle values, moderate chroma, low value contrast, and medium chroma contrast for U.S. clients.
"Color, Meaning, Culture, and Design: Meaning and Preference of Interior Color Palettes among Four Cultures," from a study by Youngsoon Park and Denise Guerin, PhD

Culture and Color Palettes
“Remember the individual color preferences and taboos along with variations in chroma and value when choosing color palettes for multi-cultural audiences. Sometimes just adding a second color changes the negative feeling of colors for different cultures. Be aware of these.”

"Color, Meaning, Culture, and Design: Meaning and Preference of Interior Color Palettes among Four Cultures," from a study by Youngsoon Park and Denise Guerin, PhD

Color Clusters

“Even though some countries showed a particular dislike for one or another color, they liked it as a pair in a two-color combination.” - T. J. Madden

For example, while red is a mostly a negative color in Western society, indicating danger - when in combination with white or green, it indicates Christmas, and when in combination with pink, it signifies Valentines Day.

Color Clusters
Madden analyzed 2-color-combination preference patterns in 8 countries:
• Even if a single color held a negative connotation, taboo disappeared; they liked it as a pair in a 2-color combination; i.e., Japanese associate white with death, but when paired with red, the combination becomes celebratory • In all 8 cultures, blue + green + white associated with meanings as: "peaceful", "gentle", and "calming".

Standardizations should not be accepted without a thorough analysis of color and color combination preferences in cultures.


Color Clusters
Madden analyzed 2-color-combination preference patterns in 8 countries: (cont.)
•Black and brown associated with the meanings of "sad" and "stale" in all 8 cultures, but some had an additional meanings of “formal” (Brazil, Columbia, PRC, & Taiwan), and “masculine” (Austria, Hong Kong, & U.S.) •Gold, orange, and yellow raised the concern because they were not associated with any given color meanings. Red was the only color not clustered, and was associated with the meanings of "active", "hot", and "vibrant". In most of these countries it was also associated with "emotional" and "sharp". Moreover, two of the Asian countries (PRC and Taiwan) indicated it as "pleasant" too.
Standardizations should not be accepted without a thorough analysis of color and color combination preferences in cultures.

Effect of Globalization on Color
“…while there are different races and cultures throughout the world, people are far more similar than different.”

Effect of Globalization on Color
• Globalization is happening across cultures and continues on a fast train • Today, people have access to so much more information • Younger people all over the world have more in common than they had in common with different generations in their own countries • Customs, traditions and ideas are becoming increasingly universal

Effect of Globalization on Color
• • • • • • Color symbols are more widely accepted cross-culturally Brides in China, traditionally wore red, now they wear white for the ceremony and later add a red jacket over the gown Thailand mourning colors are changing from white to black Black has become the dress of sophistication worldwide Green is the color of social, environmental and ecology movements – as a universal symbol “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando, is being used worldwide to indicate the hopeful return of anyone in harm’s way
- Marie Byrne, NYSCID, ASID Assistant Professor, NY University of Technology

All these observations on color meanings seem to indicate that while there are different races and cultures throughout the world, people are far more similar than different.

How Culture Impacts Color for the Designer
The world is becoming more global daily and designers are working with clients from many different cultures, especially international cultures. Question: How does the melding of these many cultures impact the designers’ roles in selecting color palettes for facilities such as hospitals, hotels, schools, institutions and corporate offices?

The Face of the User

When choosing the colors for a project, you first need to (as always) think of your audience or the face of the user. Is it a global audience? Is it primarily Western? Eastern? Are they older? Younger? Male? Female? All of these things, and more can affect the color choices.

The Face of the User
• STIMULATION – result color produces on mind, body and spirit • STIMULUS AND EFFECT – universal and cross cultures, except white and black • Humans worldwide have the same PHYSIOLOGICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL effects for the same colors
– – – – Blues will feel cool Reds and oranges will feel warm East/West does have differences to black & white Funeral and marriage dress will have strong emotional differences as well – Individual cultures may have different perceptions of hue, value or chroma

The Face of the User
To accomplish the required or appropriate color palette:
1. Recognize your audience and their needs 2. What is the purpose? What do you hope to accomplish? 3. What color psychology factors relate to your goal?

Considering Trends in Contemporary Culture
Color perceptions can be strongly influenced by current events:
– Sports, politics, and pop media – Late 1980’s, early 1990’s – time of political crisis in Brazil – colors of the Brazilian flag were not meaningful. Racecar driver Ayrton Senna waved the Brazilian flag when he won the Grand Prix, and green, yellow and blue became very popular – “Barbara Bush Blue,” “Nancy Reagan Red,” “Corazon Aquino Yellow” gave new meaning to these colors

Meaning of color within a specific country must take into account a wide range of contemporary influences which may end at the borders or stretch beyond.

Considering Trends in Contemporary Culture Long-term/short-term trends can be used to advantage:
– Specify short-term colors for items that will be replaced regularly
• Accents • Paint

– Expensive items that will only be replaced every 5 years or more should be based on long-term trends or accepted palettes
• Furnishings • Floor coverings

Cultural Color Trends
Examples abound of how cultural color trends can be used to guide color selection.

Hotel Biba, West Palm Beach, FL

To target young people, the designer of Hotel Biba, a boutique hotel in West Palm Beach, FL, created a '60s-era atmosphere with a daring palette of colors that included lilac, melon, and celery.

Cultural Color Trends
The developer of Porches Inn, a boutique hotel in North Adams, MA, took a slightly offbeat approach and used bold colors to give a contemporary look to the 19th century mill workers' homes that make up the hotel.
Porches Inn North Adams, MA

Color in Cultural Context
• Color is so contextual • Check the demographics of the targeted consumer • Many cultural mores change faster than fashion
Leatrice Eiseman Color: Messages and Meanings www.colorexpert.com

When Eiseman visited China last year. “I was told by a group of 50- and 60somethings that yellow was the color reserved traditionally for the emperor and royalty as the roof tiles in this royal residence,” she recalls. “The next day I spoke to Donghia University students, ages 17 to 25, and many of them were wearing yellow.”

Every Facility Is Unique

Every facility is unique. By making appropriate design and color selections that speak directly to the targeted clientele, facilities professionals and designers will be able to create an environment that satisfies consumers' tastes..

Every Facility Is Unique
• • Be aware of current industry trends, but always remember geographic location: Colors that look great in warm tropical locations won't necessarily produce the same results in cold, gray northern climates. Colors can be used effectively to create a wide range of moods, as well as define spaces and make it easy for guests at large facilities to find their way around. Use color to play up architectural details or define styles, such as traditional or contemporary, or use colors to create themes or reinforce cultural or ethnic concepts. A variety of cultural or ethnic themes can be reinforced, as well, by the use of colors specific to other countries or regions of the world, such as Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and Latin America. These color themes can be used to create a retro, tropical/exotic, urban, or Zen appearance.

Color is becoming more universal and internationalized
Do your homework on the backgrounds/perceptions of any given culture Never make assumptions that all people from a particular background will have the same reactions to any one color Due to increased communication and shrinking barriers, old color concepts are changing

Test Questions
1. The accumulated habits, attitudes, and beliefs of a group of people that define for them their general behavior and way of life is known as their _____________. A. B. C. D. Lifestyle Language Culture History 4. 2. _______ is the traditional color of mourning for Eastern nations. A. B. C. D. Black White Yellow Purple 3. When choosing the colors for a project, you need to first (as always) think of the _____________. A. B. C. D. Color Scheme Location Audience Trends

Today’s young people are more likely to be more __________ in their perceptions than those older or more traditional generations. A. B. C. D. Discerning Vibrant Similar Unique

Thank You!

What Does Culture Have To Do With Color?
Prepared By:

education-works, inc. Dallas, TX


NAME: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________ TITLE: q INTERIOR DESIGNER q ARCHITECT q OTHER ____________________________________________________

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COURSE TITLE: COURSE DESCRIPTION: Upon completion of this course, participants will understand the cultural,

educational, and geographical effects on color significance and preference and will be more informed when making design choices.

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ASHLEY LEISTER c/o INTERIOR DESIGN Magazine 360 PARK AVENUE SOUTH NEW YORK, NY 10010 PHONE: 646.746.7266 EMAIL: ashley.leister@reedbusiness.com

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