The Untapped Power of Color and Culture

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.

Color Psychology and Culture

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. 

Color Psychology and Culture

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
  • Sym­bols
  • Jew­el­ry
  • Archi­tec­ture
  • Food

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:

  • Gen­er­a­tional
  • His­tor­i­cal
  • Gen­der 
  • Per­son­al 

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.

Color Psychology and Culture

Image cour­tesy of Adobe Stock

And Indi­an brides wear their tra­di­tion­al wed­ding attire (called lehen­ga), which is typ­i­cal­ly red.

Color Psychology and Culture

Image cour­tesy of Adobe Stock

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: 


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. 


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.


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!

About the Author

Nicte Cuevas, Principal of Nicte Creative Design, empowers mission-driven businesses through strategic design & branding. Nicte has applied this when working with Adobe Spark and Twitter Business, LinkedIn Learning, Dogs on Deployment and Purina, Girl Scouts, The Houston Zoo and The Contemporary Arts Museum. Her excellence in communication design & marketing has been recognized by multiple national / international awards, including a coveted feature in Graphic Design USA's People to Watch.

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