We found this beautiful iris of information from David McCandleness over at Information is Beautiful and AlwaysWithHonor.com. They whipped it up back in April of 09. You can see their sources here.
The first thing to pop out upon reading is the closer the concepts are to natural phenomenon the more consistent the color associations are across cultures. We pretty much agree about the color of heat (41) and cold (10), and why not, fire and ice come from nature conveniently color coded. Evil (24), with its associations with the fear and danger of night, is just plain black; while passion (62) and eroticism (22) share the spectrum with red hot heat. Growth (37) is left pure green and squarely in the domain of plants; earthy (20) is brown, and even illness's (44) yellow elicits jaundice skin.
Two examples of color consistency with out direct natural equivalent are jealousy (49), which is all green, and truce (79), which is all white. These represent powerful cultural memes which have likely spread from one culture to the next replacing previous color symbology or maybe just filling in gaps.
As we get in to the more intangible concepts the color cultures diverge. Death (16), for example, is represented mainly as black or white, similar in their lack of hue if opposite in brightness and saturation. Or take anger (1), which trends toward red but also includes black, perhaps a mix of heat and evil. No one can agree on intelligence (46), love (53), or wisdom (84).
But what would you pick if we were starting our color symbology from scratch? Here are a few of our favorites.
- Emily Eifler, Associate Designer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio