Color is the most fundamental elements of design. For example, a red shirt, even if it is the same cut and fabric, conveys a different feeling and sense than, for example, the same shirt in black.
We often hear clients say that they want a particular color because it conveys some essential meaning of the business. This is usually true from their perspective, but that doesn’t mean that it is universally true.
For example, red, for signage, at least, conveys stop or prohibition in the United States. Our stop signs are red, as our a lot of “caution” signs. That same red in China, though, conveys happiness, good fortune and welcome. You’ll see a lot of red in many of the Chinatowns in major cities.
Blue, in designs for businesses, often conveys trust and reliability; whereas, the same blue used for a restaurant would probably be ill-advised. Blue, of course, is the color of mold and rotten food, which is why you seldom see blue processed food or many restaurant designs with blue. So, blue on one context is appropriate, inappropriate in another.
Pink is another color that has widely varying cross-cultural meanings. In the United States, pink is an effeminate color. In Japan, pink has many meanings, but one of the most salient is the use of pink for advertising so-called “adult services”–sex shops and massage parlors.
So, when you’re thinking color, try to consider how that color may be interpreted. Another good idea is to hire a design team that understands the use of color very well and one that help you make informed decisions.