Colours and their meaning to design

Last week we talked about colours and their different meanings in several cultures. At this moment I realised how lucky I am being surrounded by such an international study group. Where else could I learn about the different cultural meanings of colours so easily if not in London?!

This very luck is associated with the colour red in Asian countries, whereas red in European countries it is seen as the colour for power and fear. And did you know that white is associated with wedding, galleries and birth in Europe, whereas it means the totally opposite in Asia: death.

How lucky I am to figure out this meaning now and not by an accident as a future global brand manager! For me it’s very fascinating that tweaking something as small as color can completely change an outcome of marketers work. Thus, what I learnt most: When designing a visual identity or campaign for a business, it’s important to take into account the way consumer differently interpret color. This visual by David McCandless and can help to identify the cultural associations of colour.


The different meaning of colours in different branches can especially found in corporate branding. An infografic by Brian Honigman perfectly demonstrates this different use of colours in corporate design.


Interestingly, it can be noticed that mostly banks or other service companies use blue in their logos. Not surprisingly, the reason for it lays in its colour meaning:

Studies have found that people most often associate the color blue with trustworthiness and competence. Thus banks are easily seen as safe and reliable by using the blue colour.

 Another interesting fact is that Fast Food brands such as Burger King, KFC or Coca Cola are basically positioned in the red line. Lets just think about the colour meaning behind. Scientist found out that red increases the heart rate, awakes the feeling of fastness and stimulates hunger. How clever it is to colour these brands with the colour for exitement!

Nonetheless, I recently recognised that Mc Donalds started with a redesign in its corporate brand by changing the colour red into green.


I ask myself what intention does this colour change have? Does McDonalds want to be positioned as more healthy and eco-friendly, as green is associated with sustainability and nature? Obviously the colour is linked with the repositionig! But, for me, I can just hardly link Mc Donalds with this new positioning, the more I associate this colour change with greenwashing. Interestingly, my Amercian fellow told me that she associated the colour green with money and richness and less with nature or healthyness. Thus, I will intrestingly follow the redesign and I am curious if McDonalds will succeed with this colour change globally – i better ask my international fellows about the different colour perception in their cultures first 😉 

Have a colorful week & cheers!

P.S.: If you wanna find out more about colour and what they do with our brains, check this fun brain game out!



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