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Cultures Column
Color Theories

Cultures Column
  • Selling with Color (by )
  • Picasso His Life and Work Roland Penrose (by )
  • The Color of Life (by )
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We use color to express personality. We carefully select the colors we wear, the hues that adorn our homes, and the colors of the cars we drive. Color trends continually change, fueling demand in fashion, home décor, cosmetics, and the auto industry. In fact, every year color authority Pantone introduces its Color of the Year. Ultra Violet was selected for 2018. 

Today’s global marketplace increases the importance of understanding the nuances of color and how it translates across cultures. Color perceptions vary from culture to culture. For example, in the West, black is associated with mourning, but Eastern and Asian cultures associate it with health, prosperity, and masculinity. 

In Selling With Color, Faber Birren writes, “The influences of color on man’s being probably needs no strong defense. Since the beginning of time he has looked upon light as the emanation of a divine and omnipotent force.” (p. 160)

Birren also writes, “In the art of medicine the Egyptians diagnosed and healed with color. Papyri dating back to 1500 B.C. prescribe medicines compounded of certain colored materials. Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. healed with music, poetry, and color.” He goes on to say, “Avicenna, the Arabian, in the Dark Ages, declared that red and yellow were injurious to the eyes, blue soothed the movement of the blood, red stimulated it.” The irritating red and yellow color combination is common to the fast food industry. Both McDonald’s and Burger King use these colors together to convey a sense of urgency and speediness.
In the West, red symbolizes love and danger, but Australia’s aboriginals associate it with land and the earth. This bold hue is also associated with communism. In India, red symbolizes purity and sensuality, but in Nigeria it represents aggression and vitality. 

Blue is a peaceful, soothing color. Think of blue skies and serene blue oceans. In the West, it’s associated with masculinity, but the Chinese consider it a feminine color. People in the West also talk about having “the blues,” a term alluding to depression. Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period lasted from 1901 to 1904. During this time, he painted somber paintings in shades of blue and blue-green. In Picasso: His Life And Work, Paul Eluard writes, “The picture called The Blue Room to which I have referred is one in which Picasso’s natural predilection for blue led him, over a period of several years, to choose this colour for the leading role in his palette.” (p. 79)

In The Color of Life, Arthur G. Abbott writes, “Dark red-orange is associated in the mind of man with fire and heat; therefore the color creates a feeling of warmth, without actually raising the temperature of anything that it accompanies. Light green-blue, which is associated with ice and coldness, has the opposite effect.” (p. 183)

By Regina Molaro

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