Color Lesson: Red

The most physical color in the spectrum, red suggest the very ebb and flow of life. It is the most viscerally “alive” hue, the symbolic color of the heart, strong-willed and expressing strong emotions. It may command us to stop but at the same time encourages movement. Physiologically, red is a call to the adrenaline glands to get the body and senses activated.

From the beginning of time red has been deeply ingrained in the human mind as a signal to act or re-act, to fight or flee. It is the color of life-sustaining blood or life-threatening bloodshed as well as the color of enticing, appetite arousing ripened fruits and delicious foods that sustain humans’ very existence.

Red is an unrelenting hue. As an attention-getter, red can muscle out surrounding colors–whether on a website, in the window of a designer boutique or on a supermarket shelf. Red’s more aggressive traits have to be handled judiciously so that the viewer is not overwhelmed or antagonized by its demanding presence. But if demanding is what you want, then red is your color.

Word association studies invariably show red is perceived as the most sensual of all colors and, as the saying goes, “sex sells”. So the use of eye-riveting reds in the context of cosmetics, lingerie, and let’s not forget sports cars, does titillate the senses. It is a provocative and sultry use of a blatantly “come-on” color that can easily be translated to an ad, packaging, signage or retail display. The tempting suggestiveness can be used in the color of the product itself, for example, on a sleekly sexy and vibrantly red cell phone. While a cell phone may not be thought of as sexy, it is, in fact, one of the most intimate objects we own. Red does evoke passion for all sorts of products–an important issue at point of purchase, no matter where that point happens to be located.

Not unexpectedly, the brightest reds make the boldest statements. Whether expressing danger, celebration, love or passion–lipstick reds, scarlet and crimson will not be ignored. These are the reds that “get the blood up” and arouse the strongest emotions.

Red Hue Factoids:
• The pituitary gland really springs into action when it sees red.
• Positive color associations: passion, courage, energy, love
• Negative color associations: sin, guilt, hatred, violence, anger
• In China, red symbolizes good luck and happiness


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