There is much more to color than a pretty palette or a fashion statement. It gives rise to feelings, forges connections to one’s heritage, brings people together, and is an effective form of communication. We can create deeper relationships when we become more aware of the color choices we make in our branding and intentionally use color psychology as a powerful form of language, particularly when it comes to cross-cultural communication.
Our relationship with color has shifted over time. It was once closely connected to our culture and heritage and now is a form of self-expression and fashion. We frequently put off color selections until the end and never consider how our chosen colors might influence people in different cultures. Or we let artificial intelligence pick the colors.
There is nothing wrong with pulling inspiration from our environments — we love when creativity can bloom. But in terms of color as a form of communication, we need to be strategic. It is time for us to reconnect with color and deepen our connection with it because it has the power to bring communities together and celebrate our rich traditions and heritage.
Our connection to color and culture runs deep in many different ways and environments. We can see this across:
- Traditions and holidays
- Religion and rituals
- Arts and folklore
- Textiles and patterns
However, many of us don’t realize that there are other vital influences related to color and culture and that they are related to traumas and painful experiences:
While we may not control or understand an individual’s traumas related to specific hues, we must be aware of the historical and generational traumas some colors hold. For instance, in Venezuela, former president Hugo Chavez used red for his campaign. He called on his followers to flood the streets with red berets or hats to chant his name, as the people who didn’t support his tyranny would do peaceful protests. He used red from the flag color and told people it represented his passion for his country, but his actions created anger, rage, and bloodshed connected to that hue. Many Venezuelans still hold uneasy feelings about seeing red berets.
We can also take that same red hue and see its symbolic connection to the Chinese New Year, as it brings good fortune.
And Indian brides wear their traditional wedding attire (called lehenga), which is typically red.
This knowledge can help you engage your communities and prevent us from becoming more divided. Your brand’s visual identity, written content, and even, in some cases, body language can all influence color and culture in various ways.
As you work with color in your branding, you want to think beyond a pretty palette and always consider the hue’s impact. Don’t rush your color selection process!
To get a deeper look at the impact of Color and Cultural Connections, check out Nicte’s course on LinkedIn Learning.
Tapping into the power of color and culture for your brand might not happen overnight. However, there are ways to be more efficient and intentional in using colors in your communication.
Here are three areas to focus on:
PLAN BEFORE DESIGNING
Define what your communication goal is as you can connect color to help you drive emotions. Keep in mind that working with a global audience means you must do thorough research beyond a quick search on Google.
Set a timeline in your research and development phase to allow you enough time to assess your color impact on a global scale. Trends might also influence the meaning of color over time, so staying in the know of trends can be beneficial.
CHECK YOUR SOURCES
It’s incredible how the internet has provided us with accessible information in seconds. But that doesn’t mean that the sources are always trustworthy. At the same time, it’s hard to check the validity of the content. So to navigate this, try using trusted and well-known sources. Ideally, you’ll want to have a trusted network of experts who you can consult for specific questions.
ALWAYS CHECK FOR BIAS
All forms of visual communication could hold a bias or a complete misunderstanding about a culture-related color. We have to avoid using color choices based on marketing sales tactics.
In the old-age gendered marketing approach, using pink to market to women has been a go-to for many brands. We can’t assume that every woman loves pink! We also can’t assume that using flag colors will be symbolic of culture or heritage. To ensure your content is on-point, you can build partnerships with local folklore and cultural groups who are experts in that community.
We can create deeper relationships when we become more aware of the color choices we make in our branding and intentionally use color psychology as a powerful form of language. Color is one way that we can bridge cultural divides and build understanding. When used thoughtfully, color can be an incredibly effective communication tool. I’ve just scratched the surface on this fascinating topic here.
To learn more, check out my LinkedIn Learning Course on Color and Cultural connections. In it, we explore how colors are perceived differently in different cultures and how to use that knowledge to create designs that resonate with people all over the world.
Do you have any memorable experiences with color for cross-cultural communication? Leave us a comment below!