The symbolism and psychology of colour

Colors speak all languages. -Joseph Addison-

Xander colour heart

Have you ever wondered why girls (at least in Western Culture) wear pink, and boys blue? Or why you love that particular shade of green, but yellow leaves you cold? Those that study the psychology of colour have an interesting take on the feeling that colours can evoke, and although some colours have a specific cultural significance, many experts believe that colours can have a very real effect on anything from your mood to how easily you concentrate.

Several ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or the use of colors to heal. Chromotherapy is sometimes referred to as light therapy or colourology and is still used today as a holistic or alternative treatment. It is fascinating to think that the colours that surround us can have such profound effect on our functioning – something to keep in mind when painting the study or the baby’s room.

Its also interesting to note that the traditional colours that we associate with boy and girl babies, have not always been as fixed as they are today. You can’t walk into a toy store or clothing store without being assaulted by aisles full of ‘manly’ blue or ‘feminine’ pink. But this tradition is fairly new in Western Culture, originating less than 100 years ago. Before the advent of modern material and washing machines, babies were dressed in practical white, which was easy to boil, bleach and keep clean. Early in the 20th Century, pastels of all shades were thought suitable for babies, and boys and girls alike were often dressed in light pink.
It is believed that the penchant for dressing the various sexes in one specific colour, was part of a marketing drive by early advertisers in America, who saw the opportunity of getting parents to buy two sets of clothes, instead of one unisex set. Read more about this interesting take on what is now considered the norm.

Colours can be grouped into two broad spectrums, namely cold and warm colours. Colours such as red, yellow and orange are perceived as warm, and are said to evoke feelings of comfort, although they might also represent feelings of anger and hostility. We all know the expression ‘to see red’ when you are angry. Cool colors are on the blue side of the colour spectrum and include blue, purple and green. These colors are often described as calm, but can also convey feelings of sadness or emotional coldness. Who hasn’t felt a little blue?

Louw (aged 4), a big Xander fan, mentions his favourite colour.

Here’s a quick cheat-sheet on a few colours and their effects on us, in case you are thinking of painting the walls or adding a few dashes of colour to your house. Deployed strategically they might help with anything from studying to relaxation.
Red – helps with concentration and improves attention to detail
Blue – has a calming effect and enhances creativity
Green – has a relaxing and calming effect and is good for bedrooms

Why not explore colours with your children, by downloading our suite of Xander Shapes & Colours apps? You can download versions in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Swahili directly from the iStore.