Red: Its Meaning, Emotion and Evolution.

A colour can be associated to all sorts of emotions, brands and feelings.

November 12, 2018

Colours are a weird and wonderful thing. It is bizarre to me that I can look at a colour and automatically understand the feeling and emotion behind it. However, my perception of the very same colour can change depending on the way in which the colour is being presented to me.

The truth is that everyone might react differently, and as we’ve discussed previously your age is one factor that can alter the way in which you view a colour. Using the same example, Millennials' are more likely to associate the colour green with energy and excitement. Whereas the Baby Boomer generation would associate green with calmness.

The colour I am going to focus on today is red. When you read the word ‘red’ what was the first thing you thought of? I asked a few people and their answers varied from ‘sexy’ and ‘passion’ to ‘danger’ and even ‘Taylor Swift.’

It just reiterates that colour and emotion is subjective to the individual, the way it is viewed, is it a written word or a block of solid colour? Or the context in which it is received, on a road sign or as a Skittle when you pull it out of the packet.

The colour red is a universal indicator of danger or warning, it has been for as long as I can remember. Why did they pick red all those years ago though? Was it because the colour red stands out better against the ever-changing backdrop of the landscape or because red travels better through all weather conditions. Or it could be as others say because it’s the colour of fire and blood.

All valid reasons, neither have been confirmed or denied but it got me asking. If we see the colour red in scenarios like a road sign and associate it with a warning or danger why don’t we feel the same sense of urgency, of danger when looking at the red label of the Coca-Cola bottle as it sits on the shelf? Or the Lego logo as your son picks yet another lego box off of the shelf?

Both of their logos feature the colour red yet they don’t provoke the same response. The reason is, colour has a different way of evoking emotions when in the form of marketing. In the world of marketing, red portrays power. It’s a bold exciting colour which is why it plays such a prominent part in the world of marketing.

How many logos can you think of that consist of the colour red? Coca-Cola, Lego, Hamleys. H&M and McDonalds to name just a few. There are so many logos across a variety of different sectors all using the colour red because red is noticeable and unmissable.

Some reports suggest an individual makes an assessment of an object/brand/design within 90 seconds from first seeing it and a huge part of this judgement is down to its colour which makes colour choice incredibly important and incredibly difficult to get right.


The colour red can convey both happy and sad emotions, the way in which the colour is presented will have a major impact on the way the colour is received by the individual but regardless of its message, red will always stand out.

Red is used in branding and marketing because it’s bold and will stand out on a shelf. Not only that, the various shades of red can evoke the same emotional response which is why the colour works so well for such a wide variety of brands.

So next time you’re picking out colours for your new identity, think carefully.

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Kayleigh Walter

A Graphic Designer with a passion for all things creative with great knowledge of the Adobe Suite and experience in Media and Publicity, Branding and Marketing.

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