Red is considered the oldest colour in the world. Its old age contributes to different meanings in different cultures.
Depending on your origins, you may associate with red as the colour of fire and heat. It is frequently the colour of danger and an indicator of importance commonly used for warning signs around the world. Elsewhere, the colour of protection – in several parts of the world babies clothes have red elements to protect them from harm and evil spirits.
In China, red is the colour of joy seen everywhere during Chinese New Year; and the colour of luck symbolised in red gift envelopes. In India, red is the colour of marriage – brides wear red dresses and paint their bodies with red henna.
Marriage corresponds with fertility and menstruation, as such, red is the colour of blood symbolising birth. On the other hand, in Africa, red is perceived as the colour of death. In the West, red is the colour of sexual power, think red light district, but also the colour of love with red roses as the symbol of passion. It is also the colour of autumn as green fades to red, then yellow and brown.
Carmine, scarlet, cherry, ruby, currant, garnet, brick, coral, crimson, cardinal, maroon, strawberry, iron, blush
The colour of rust. Planet Mars is red due to abundance of iron oxide on the Martian rocks. The colour of battle associated with bloodshed. The colour of revolution associated with the political left. The colour of courage in the face of sacrifice and danger.
Red is the colour of aristocracy and the colour of Catholic cardinals, the Princes of the Church; as only the very wealthy and those protected by sumptuary laws could afford the expensive and rare, red cloth dye to distinguished themselves from others.
It is also the colour of embarrassment, symbolising error, being caught red handed or being red-faced. A scarlet letter A was given to adulteress women. In modern corporate culture, red is the colour of extroverts.
How the meaning of RED has been influenced over the years
Commonly red is the colour of the political left whilst blue is the colour of the political right. But not in the US, where red is for Republican since the 1990s. During the presidential election that George Bush won, NBC television used red for Republicans and it just stuck.
In the 16th century the best red dye for cloths was produced by extracting carmine from native American cochineal insects. 150 000 of the tiny insects are needed to produce one kilogram of the dye. Spanish conquistadors adopted the technique from the Aztecs but producing and importing the red dye was expensive to buy so only the rich elites could afford red cloth. Today the red carpet is still “rolled out” for Heads of State and for the Hollywood elite attending The Oscars. However, since synthetic dye became available, red is an affordable choice for everyone today.
Maybe most notably in the age of modern consumerism, Santa Claus is wearing a red coat finished with white ermine. Swedish illustrator Haddon Sundblom invented that fat and jolly Santa to match Coca-Cola’s branding in the 1930s…
Red thinking by Creative M Studio.
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