Color Meanings and History of Associations

Color plays an important role in our lives and is not something that should be overlooked. This post explores the meanings of colors and how they can affect thinking, actions and reactions. Our Expression Series cabinetry line offers a wide variety of colors and this post can help you select the perfect color for you and your loved ones.

Basic Color Symbolism Theory

Before we go more in depth on the meanings of specific colors and color families, it is important to briefly touch on the topic of color symbolism. Color conveys meanings in two fundamental ways – natural associations and psychological symbolism. Natural associations are universal and timeless, whereas psychological symbolism is more dependent on the individual?s culture and previous experiences.

An example of a natural association is the blue sky and the green grass. This is something that is familiar to all people and has been since the beginning of our creation, thus, it is a universal and timeless association.

Psychological symbolism is a bit more complex. Take the color green for example. While the natural association of this color communicates growth, freshness and fruitfulness, the psychological symbolism may mean different things to different people and cultures. In Ireland, for example, green is symbolic of good luck, however, to other cultures, the color may symbolize money, greed, or even seasickness. These associations all have nothing to do with the natural association of green.

Certain colors may also have both positive and negative symbolism, depending on the individual?s perspective. Take for example, the color blue. While it is naturally associated with the beautiful blue sky, or the calming seas, certain people may associate the color with sadness, while others might think stability – think ?singing the blues? or ?blue-chip stocks? as examples of the different connotations for this color.

There is no right or wrong association for color. When deciding on your color, ask yourself how the color makes you feel. That is the only feeling that matters here.

Now enough with the theoretical stuff, let’s get on to the meanings of color.


Simply put, red is the color of extremes. Love, seduction, romance or violence, danger, anger and adventure (remember the positive and negative symbolism we touched on previously?). Our ancestors saw red as the color of fire and blood and most of red’s symbolism today is a result of these past associations. To the ancient Greeks, red symbolized super-human heroism and to the Christians, it is the color of the crucifixion. In ancient times, red was almost as expensive and as rare as purple, a fact that may help to explain red’s association with magic and power.

Fun Facts About Red

  • Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people.
  • Red is the international color for stop.
  • The history of languages reveals that red is the first color after black and white.
  • In Asia, red is the color of good luck and is the most popular color in China.
  • In East Asian stock markets, red is used to denote a rise in a stock price (our stock markets use red to denote a decline in the price – more positive vs negative symbolism).
  • In Japan, a red kimono symbolizes happiness and good luck and is often worn at weddings.
  • Eight percent of the male population has a red-green color vision deficiency and cannot see red at all.

Designing with Red

Aside from light and dark shades of red, there are yellow-based (tomato) reds and blue-based (berry) reds. Some say that males are more attracted to the tomato reds and females to the berry reds.

When designing with red, context is everything. For example, when red is placed on a black background, it will appear bright, vivid and fierce. When placed against a white background, it will be somewhat duller. When placed against an orange background, it appears nearly lifeless.

In design, a little bit of red goes a long way.

Expression Series Shades of Red



Yellow is the most luminous of all the colors of the spectrum. Yellow captures our attention more than any other color. It is a color that symbolizes happiness, optimism, enlightenment and creativity. It?s naturally associated with sunshine and spring.

Yellow has great positive symbolism, but this color also has some negative symbolism, depending on your individual experiences. It can be associated with cowardice, betrayal and madness. It is the color of caution (think yellow traffic lights and cautionary signs) and illness (jaundice and malaria).

Fun Facts About Yellow

  • Yellow represents sunshine, happiness, and warmth in nearly every culture.
  • Yellow is the most visible color of the spectrum. The human eye processes yellow first.
  • Yellow is the color of traffic lights and cautionary signs all over the world.
  • In Japan, yellow represents courage.
  • Marigold yellow can be associated with death in some areas of Mexico.
  • In China, adult movies are referred to as yellow movies.

Designing with Yellow

Technically, there are no dark yellows, but only strong mustard yellows and deep yellows. Yellow is the only color that reacts poorly to black and when mixed, becomes a sickly yellow-green. It is advisable to use yellow in moderation when designing your space. The color has a high light reflectance value and acts as a secondary light source. Excessive use of a bright yellow has proven to cause eye irritation.

Expression Series Shades of Yellow

Antique White
Antique White


Blue is the world’s number one favorite color. The natural color for water and sky, but is rarely found in fruits and vegetables. Opposite to red’s warmth, fire, and intensity, blue is more commonly associated with cold, wet, and calm. This color is more complex and contradictory in its meanings than any other color and the different shades of blue usually have different meanings.

  • Dark blue: trust, dignity, intelligence.
  • Bright blue: cleanliness, strength, dependability.
  • Light blue: peace, serenity, spirituality.

Many blues convey a sense of trust, loyalty, cleanliness, and understanding. In American culture, blue has evolved as a symbol of depression. “Singing the blues” and “Feeling blue” are two examples of this cultural evolution.

Fun Facts About Blue

  • 53% of flags in the world contain blue.
  • Blue is the most commonly used color in corporate identity.
  • Blue is the number one favorite color of all people.
  • Greeks believe that blue wards off “the evil eye”.
  • The English phrase, “to feel blue”, has no equivalent in any other language.
  • In Belgium, blue is for a baby girl and pink is for a baby boy.

Designing with Blue

Being the most popular color in the world, it is hard to go wrong if you use blue in your design projects, however, take care in over-use. Combining blue with another color is a great way to show your creativity. In our Expression Series, Harbour Blue and Pebble Grey are combined quite often for a contrasting and elegant looking kitchen.

Blue is sharply refracted by the eyes, which gives us the illusion of blue spaces appearing smaller. Be mindful of using blue in already small spaces, as the color may make the space appear overly cramped.

Expression Series Shades of Blue

Harbor Blue
Harbor Blue


In recent years, green has evolved into more than just a color. It?s a symbol of ecology and a verb. ?Going green? is a way of life and is being embraced across the globe. Dating back to ancient times, green has signified growth, rebirth, and fertility. In Ireland, green is a symbol of luck and in Muslim countries, a symbol of holiness. It is universally associated with nature. Some of the more modern psychological symbolism has green being associated with money, ambition, greed, and jealousy.

Fun Facts About Green

  • Traffic lights all over the world are green.
  • In China, green may symbolize infidelity and a green hat may mean that a man’s wife is cheating on him.
  • In Israel, green tends to symbolize bad news.
  • The Japanese word for green and blue (“ao”) is the same.
  • Green is a lucky color in most Western cultures.
  • Most race cars are not green because they are considered unlucky.

Designing with Green

Green is a very versatile color, as there are more shades of green than any other color. Ranging from yellow-greens, such as lime and avocado, to blue tinge greens, such as emerald, green has a wide variety of color options, suitable for many spaces. The green shades in Expression Series are more toned down shades of green, with hints of grey, which helps to add a more neutral look. HD6464S is a bright, sea foam green that helps to create a light and airy feel, perfectly suitable for kitchen islands, laundry rooms and bathrooms.

Expression Series Shades of Green



Pink is a combination of red and white, and is actually considered to be more of a tint. It can range from a cool, blue-based, berry pink to a warmer, orange-based, salmon pink. The symbolism of this color is actually quite complex. In nearly every culture, one major stereotype of pink remains – pink is for girls. There is no clear consensus of opinion on the origin of this stereotype, however, several theories try to explain.

One theory, as explained by Jean Heifetz, is that for centuries, all European children were dressed in blue because the color was associated with the Virgin Mary; however, at the turn of the century, this mindset changed to pink being for boys, since it is the stronger color (being a mixture of red and white). The cooler tone of blue was considered more delicate and dainty, thus better suited for girls.

Another theory of why blue is typically associated with boys stems back to ancient times, when having a boy was considered to be good luck. The color of the sky, where gods lived, held powers to ward off evil, so baby boys were dressed in blue.

Finally, in ancient China, blue dyes were rare and expensive while pink dyes were readily available. Therefore, it was considered to be more worthwhile to dress your son in blue.

Fun Facts About Pink

  • Regardless of your skin color, some part of your body is pink.
  • In Ancient Egypt, the flamingo was the hieroglyph for the color red.
  • “Tickled pink” describes a state of joy while “Pink Slip” is a notice that you have been fired.
  • Being “In the pink” suggests good fortune and health.
  • In Belgium, pink is the color used for baby boys.

Designing with Pink

While the first shade of pink that comes to mind may not be one that is associated with cabinetry design, there are plenty of shades that when used properly, can really transform your space. Our Expression Series as two versatile shades of pink that can be used to brighten up any space, whether it be your kitchen, bathroom, or any other space in your home.

Expression Series Shades of Pink



Color is a vital aspect of our every day lives. While often overlooked, the feelings derived from specific colors are important to consider when making color choices for your home. How does the color speak to you? While every color has natural associations that are universal to everyone, the psychological symbolism varies based on the individual’s culture and own experiences. When choosing a color for your next project, ask yourself, ?How does this color make me feel?? Does it make you feel good? Warm? Relaxed? Anxious? Only you can answer these questions and you’ll know the right color for you when you see it. You’ll feel it.

SOURCE: Credit for the majority of the information in this post goes to the fantastic blog, Check out their site if you have a chance. There is a lot of interesting information about color there.