CEO and founder of Lingohub. Envisioning a multilingual digital world. Email me if you have questions about how Lingohub can help you take your products global.

Helmut Industry Updates 5 Comments

SHARE

The Meaning of Colors

Everything was perfect. The website design was flawless, the mobile apps worked to perfection, and the international launch went without a hitch. Everything went according to meticulously laid plans, nearly every detail gone over by everyone from QA to upper management. Then phone calls and e-mails started pouring in. Customers from around the world were upset, indignant, some were downright angry. What happened? Everything was perfect, and designed to be universally neutral. Everything, that is, except the color design. Everything from the font color to background shade had been carefully color coordinated, but a simple rule was forgotten. Know your audience. To a global market, the colors chosen speak volumes. It is imperative that colors in a website or mobile app say what they are intended to say.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Colors mean different things to different people. These groupings are not absolute, there will always be exceptions, but as a general rule when looking at large, non-homogeneous groups, they tend to trend in certain directions. Younger consumers tend to be more drawn towards brighter colors, older consumers tend to like more conservative, muted colors. Men tend towards cooler colors such as green or blue, while women are more attracted to the fires of red or orange. Political groups organize around color themes, as do Universities. It is always important to know who the target audience is, and be aware of what that audience will be expecting color wise.

I Can’t See What You are Saying

Red and green look good together, and can invoke a festive holiday spirit. They can also make a website or app completely unreadable to a portion of the potential customer base. Colorblindness is a condition where cone cells in the eyes do not function properly and make it impossible to distinguish between colors. The two main types of colorblindness result in an inability to distinguish green and red, or to distinguish blue and yellow. When these color schemes are used, it is important to ensure that critical information is not lost due to a customer’s inability to read or recognize it due to the color scheme.

Culturally Speaking

Websites that can be seen around the world, and mobile apps designed to be used by peoples of many different countries, have to be designed in a way that is culturally aware and sensitive to many different interpretations. Color selection is a part of that balancing act; choosing the wrong color can have devastating PR repercussions. Think about the color white. Innocuous, ubiquitous, almost mundane in the West. It can symbolize purity in a bride’s dress, or be synonymous with a dry erase board. In China, however, it symbolizes death and mourning. It is this kind of cultural color disonnance that has to be considered when picking a color scheme. To be sure this doesn’t mean that other cultures aren’t aware of our uses for colors, and they understand that black text on a white background is simply easier to read than other configurations. The key is to look at how colors are used, what they are representing in the product, and the message that color choice is attempting to convey, and to which market.

Around the Prismatic Globe: Colors and Cultural Symbolism

Western (European & North American) Eastern & Asian Latin American

Red

Danger, Love, Passion, Excitement, Sacrifice, Stop, Christmas (with Green),
Power

Parts of Europe:

Masculinity

Celtic:

Death, Afterlife

Russia:

Communism

Joy (with White), Bridal
Color

China:

Celebration, Good Luck, Happiness, Long Life, Summoning

India:

Purity

Japan:

Life

Mexico:

Religion (with White)

Orange

Autumn, Harvest

Ireland:

Protestants

The Netherlands:

Royalty (Very Popular)

Ukraine:

Strength

United States:

Halloween (with Black)

India (Hindu):

Sacred (the Color
Saffron)

Japan:

Courage, Love

Yellow

Hope, Happiness, Cowardice, Weakness, Hazards, Taxis,
Warmth

Germany:

Envy

Italy:

Summer

Ukraine:

Hospitality, Benevolence

Sacred, Imperial

China:

Royalty,
Nourishing

India:

Commerce

Japan:

Courage

Mexico:

Mourning

Green

Environmental Awareness, Spring, New Birth, Go, Christmas (with Red), St. Patrick’s
Day

France:

Not a Good Color for Packaging

Ireland:

National Color, Catholicism

United States:

Money

China:

Exorcism, Infidelity (Green Hats), Not a Good Color for
Packaging

India:

Islam

Japan:

Life, High-tech

Blue

Soothing

Scandinavia:

Cleanliness

Ukraine:

Good Health

United States:

Baby Boys (Light Blue), Used by Many Banks to Symbolize Trust

China:

Immortality

India
(Hindu):

Krishna

Colombia:

Soap

Purple

Royalty

China:

Nobility

India:

Reincarnation

Thailand:

Mourning

Brazil:

Mourning

Pink

Feminine Marriage

East India:

Feminine

Japan:

Popular with Both Genders

Korea:

Trust

White

Marriage, Peace, Purity, Hospitals, Holiness

Italy:

Death and Funerals (White Chrysanthemum)

Funerals, Coldness, Sterility

China:

Death, Mourning, Age, Misfortune

India:

Unhappiness, Death, Rebirth

Japan:

Mourning (White Carnation)

Grey

Poverty, Plainness

Black

Funerals, Death, Mourning, Formality, Rebellion

China:

Color for Young Boys, Trust, High Quality

Thailand:

Bad Luck, Unhappiness, Evil

Tibet:

Evil

Peru:

Mourning, Favored Color for Male Clothing

Brown

Earthy, Healthy, Poverty

United States:

Often a Greatly
Successful Color for Food Packaging

India:

Mourning

Colombia:

Discourages
Sales

Nicaragua:

Disapproval

Silver

Money, Stylish

Gold

African Middle Eastern South Pacific Worldwide

Red

Death

Nigeria:

Wealth, Vitality,
Aggression

Some Areas:

Good Luck

Cote d’Ivoire & South Africa:

Mourning

Egypt:

Luck

Iran:

Good Fortune

Australia (Aboriginals):

Land, Earth

New
Zealand (Maori):

Nobility, Divinity

Orange

Egypt:

Mourning

Yellow

Ethiopia:

Mourning

South Africa
(Zulu):

Wealth

Egypt:

Mourning

Saudi
Arabia:

Strength, Reliability

Green

North Africa:

Corruption

South Africa (Zulu):

Nature

Holiness

Egypt:

National Color, Fertility, Not a Good Color
for Packaging

Indonesia:

Forbidden Color

Malaysia and Some
Areas:

Danger

Military (Olive Green)

Blue

Nigeria (Yoruba):

Very Positive

South Africa
(Zulu):

Happiness

Protective

Iran:

Heaven, Immortality, Spirituality

Israel:

Holiness

Often considered to be the “safest” and “most positive” global color

Purple

Egypt:

Virtue

Pink

South Africa (Zulu):

Poverty

White

Ethiopia:

Illness, Purity

Nigeria:

Good Luck,
Peace

South Africa (Zulu):

Goodness

Zambia:

Goodness, Cleanliness, Good Luck

Egypt:

Status

Iran:

Holiness, Peace

New Guinea:

Prosperity

Grey

Papua New Guinea:

Mourning

Black

Ethiopia:

Impure, Unpleasant

Nigeria:

Ominous

Egypt:

Rebirth

Iran:

Mourning

New Zealand:

Patriotic National Color

Australia
(Aboriginals):

Color of the People

Brown

Australia (Aboriginals):

Color of the Land

Silver

Gold

Money, Success, High Quality

Visit lingohub today to see how we can help your product to reach a global audience