In the first article of this series I spoke about the physical and psychological effects of color. I will now explore the meanings and associations behind a number of the most commonly used colors. Taking the rainbow as a guide, we will begin with the color red.
First the science bit. Red light mostly consists of the longest wavelengths that the human eye can perceive. This makes it highly visible from a distance, hence its use in warning signs. It has also been found to provoke the strongest physical reaction than other colors, causing an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. In other words, if you really want to grab someone’s attention, using the color red is a good way to go about it.
In the animal kingdom red is the color of dominance. Many animals use red as a way of attracting mates or as a threat display to rivals or predators. Red’s ancient association with blood has led to its connection with aggression, violence and war. Many sports teams have taken advantage of this association by wearing red uniforms. They may also be responding to the idea that red has a positive psychological effect on physical performance.
The connections with blood and fertility have also meant that red has come to represent love and passion. Red is sexy. Psychologists have found that men find women who are wearing red to be more attractive. Red roses are considered a particularly romantic gift.
Red is also the color of energy and excitement, hence in China red is typically used at times of celebration. In India red is the color of purity, and a bride will invariably wear a red sari or lehenga choli on her big day, heavily embroidered with gold.
While many cultures associate red with life, there are those who see it as the color of death. The Red Lady of Paviland (actually a young male) was found in a cave in South Wales in 1823. The remains were 33,000 years old and had been covered in red ochre at the time of burial. In Nigeria and the Côte d’Ivoire red is the colour of mourning.
Ultimately red is all about extremes. It represents intensity of emotion and action. This is no doubt why red is such a popular color for company logo design and advertising. Food and drink brands in particular are fond of the color. In 1931 Coca-Cola dressed Santa Claus in their signature colour, and the rest is history.
At The Logo Company we have designed a number of logos where the client has specified the use of red. Here are just a few of them:
The red in these logos grabs the attention and reflects the nature of the businesses they represent.