Lesson 10 of 10
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Colours around the world

Colour design is not for you, but for your client!

Colours mean different things to different people

That’s why it is very important we understand who we’re designing for. Particularly with colour design. We understand that a lot of the time it’s not a matter of creating a design for who our client is, but rather who our client would like to be…

Younger people are susceptible to trends. The elderly are less visually sensitive to colour and more conservative. Children love a lot of colours, but it is not always advisable to use a lot of colours when creating designs for children. They are already very energetic and a lot of the time we don’t want to make them even more energetic. Colour does this.

Colours mean different things in different cultures

Sometimes they mean the opposite in other cultures. When creating a design for a client, you need a deep understanding of the meaning of colours for them.

Scandinavian design

In Nordic countries it is important to have a lot of light in the interior, particularly during the darker months of the year. However, colour is very important in the Nordic cultures. In Sweden, traditional rural buildings are bright red. The tradition began long ago, when wealthy Swedes wanted to emulate the Central European trend of building castles using red bricks. We couldn’t afford this, unfortunately, so instead we painted our wooden castles in this fantastic red iron oxide pigment that was later adopted by everyone. 

In China, red is the symbol of fortune

The use of colours in China is multidimensional and design has always been a part of Chinese culture. Unfortunately, during a long period of time the Chinese Cultural Revolution resulted in few possibilities to even think about design. Before this period, China was very advanced with their colours in society. Different colours had very specific and important meanings. This is now coming back with red as the most important colour, representing fortune and luck. With growing economy and larger middle class, design in China is exploding, moving towards the most advanced and bold designs in the world. But we can still see a more careful approach to colours in interiors and exterior environments. When using colour in design we see a closeness to the traditional folklore and traditional colours.

Colour is everywhere in Italy

In Mediterranean countries like Italy, colour on buildings is important. Not just because it’s beautiful, but also because it was a very practical way for fishing boats to find their way home.

In Mexico, colourful architechture is the norm

Architects like Barragán and Legorreta have designed extraordinary colourful buildings. Rosa Mexicano (Mexican pink) is a very important colour in Mexico.

In this section you have seen how important it is to understand the meaning of colour. Not for you as a designer, but for your client that might have a totally different background, culture and relationship to colour. You need to analyze your clients correctly to understand and learn about their colour references, and their relation to colour.