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Universal, cultural, and personal symbols of color

From: Foundations of Color

Video: Universal, cultural, and personal symbols of color

What makes a color universal? If you think about the things that we all experience, such as an emotion, it might be easier to understand how colors can be perceived with a universal message. We all experience environmental colors, like warm pink, or pink light, or even red light, blackened sky of night, or a sky that appears brilliant blue. We perceive human emotion and health in the form of say, a red and angry face, or a greenish sick pallor, or a white and dead face.

Universal, cultural, and personal symbols of color

What makes a color universal? If you think about the things that we all experience, such as an emotion, it might be easier to understand how colors can be perceived with a universal message. We all experience environmental colors, like warm pink, or pink light, or even red light, blackened sky of night, or a sky that appears brilliant blue. We perceive human emotion and health in the form of say, a red and angry face, or a greenish sick pallor, or a white and dead face.

We all need to sustain ourselves with edible foods. Green living plants, vibrant colorful fruits and vegetables, for example. These are just a few environmental, human, and life sustaining color associations. There are so many. If we all experience a color in a given context, in the same way, that color can be thought of as telling a color story that is universally understood. What about associations that are not universal but cultural.

In the west, a wedding dress, at least for a first marriage is often white. Because of its association with purity or virginity. White in the east is associated with death and is used to shroud a dead body. White would never be used for a wedding. Red symbolizes purity and life in India, a traditional color for a wedding dress. In South Africa, red symbolizes death and is the color of a warning. And in China, red is the symbol of good luck. Red in the west, it symbolizes warning, danger, excitement and passion.

The language of color is made even more complicated by the fact that each of us makes uniquely personal connections with colors, as well as seeing through a universal and a cultural lens. Much like the way that a person colors the words in a book with their own invented visual language based on experience, so it goes with colors. Color tells stories and makes us feel a particular way. Because we make these associations with our own stories in our heads, we color colors with our feelings, ideas and experiences.

Normal or saying with color in an image can be complicated. Because we make it personal, and that may not fit with someone else's ideas and feelings. Knowing what cultural, but more importantly, what universal associations are made and trusting our own instincts about a what color is saying to the viewer, help us make better decisions. Understanding the difference between our own personal color biases and that which speaks to a larger audience, can make the difference between getting our message across and making a deeper more profound connection with the viewer.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Color

42 video lessons · 17878 viewers

Mary Jane Begin
Author

 
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  1. 5m 20s
    1. Welcome
      1m 10s
    2. Traditional media to digital: The long and winding road of color
      3m 48s
    3. Exercise files
      22s
  2. 14m 40s
    1. Introduction: How color shapes meaning
      2m 23s
    2. Universal, cultural, and personal symbols of color
      2m 52s
    3. Concepts made clear
      4m 1s
    4. Brand identity and language
      2m 53s
    5. Sequence and pattern
      2m 31s
  3. 14m 18s
    1. What is the color wheel?
      2m 20s
    2. Primary colors, primary concerns
      3m 59s
    3. Playing with complementary colors
      3m 40s
    4. Tertiary colors: The basics of brown and gray
      4m 19s
  4. 17m 20s
    1. An overview of elements
      2m 48s
    2. Value is not a moral judgment
      2m 26s
    3. Saturation to neutralization
      3m 22s
    4. Temperature: How hot is hot?
      3m 12s
    5. Textures, marks, dashes, and dots
      2m 59s
    6. Seeing through color: Opaque, translucent, and transparent
      2m 33s
  5. 12m 25s
    1. What is contrast?
      3m 10s
    2. Creating focus: Living on the edge
      1m 15s
    3. Creating the readable image
      4m 6s
    4. Connecting contrast with content
      3m 54s
  6. 17m 29s
    1. Illuminating light
      1m 54s
    2. The effect of contrast in light
      1m 53s
    3. Value and saturation
      2m 27s
    4. On temperature
      2m 58s
    5. On complements
      2m 10s
    6. Secondary and reflected light
      3m 5s
    7. RGB vs. CMYK
      3m 2s
  7. 14m 24s
    1. An introduction to palettes
      2m 15s
    2. Limited palettes: A harmonious color palette
      2m 35s
    3. Harmony and discord
      2m 33s
    4. Unifying color grounds
      2m 40s
    5. Unifying glazes and layers
      2m 13s
    6. Charting a color family
      2m 8s
  8. 20m 25s
    1. Balance of shapes: How much is too much?
      3m 36s
    2. Weaving textural color
      2m 50s
    3. Color in context
      2m 31s
    4. Color blindness
      3m 15s
    5. Challenge: Deconstructing color
      1m 28s
    6. Solution: Demo of deconstructing color
      6m 45s
  9. 1m 3s
    1. Conclusion
      1m 3s

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