Being aware of the power of color symbolism is crucial for designers and businesses. 

There have been countless studies on the impact of colors as they influence our moods and emotions. Different colors conjure up various feelings. Know the meanings or psychology behind colors and you can predict what your audience should feel when looking at your design. 

Businesses can make use of this phenomenon in branding and advertising. Colors influence buying decisions and how a brand is perceived, as consumers unconsciously make connections between colors and their meanings. In fact, graphic design statistics indicate that potential buyers form their first impression of a product in 90 seconds, and 90% of that focuses on color. Global businesses should also keep in mind that what colors symbolize changes across different cultures. 

Explore our guide to learn how to use color symbolism in your designs and check out our downloadable infographic for inspiration at the end of this post.


Red is traditionally the color of love but can also signify danger. It’s associated with passion, romance, and positive energy but also with negatives like anger, violence, and blood. In China, red is a lucky color.

Lighter shades of red like crimson are symbols of power, happiness, and celebration. On the other hand, lighter reds can also indicate danger or be considered as the color of fresh blood. Maroon as a red on the darker spectrum carries both the meanings associated with red of taking action and purple of mystery.

This primary color is powerful, evoking strong emotions and creating associations with urgency and excitement. Choose red as your brand color to make your product stand out. Coca-Cola is one of the most famous brands that use the allure of red to craft an image of positivity and affection. The sense of energy and adventure red conjures up also works well for entertainment businesses like Nintendo and Netflix.

Craft Graphics that Stand out with Striking Reds

Red is a powerful color that immediately catches the eye. That’s why this color is often used for call-to-action buttons to increase the likelihood of clicks or in graphics for sales that only last for a limited amount of time like in our design.

Red, black, and white are a dynamic trio that is frequently used in advertising to attract attention. The red background initially pulls in customers while the black and white stand out to deliver the message of the sale.

Fuse Warmth and Revitalization with Red and Teal

Color Combination Strokes of Red (D42D2DFF) and Teal (66E7E7FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

These colors go well together as the powerful and eye-catching shades of red warm the rich and calming tones of teal. Teal gets its healing qualities from the calming nature of blue and the powers of renewal of green.

When merged with the fiery and passionate red, your designs pop with energy catching the eye while also emanating relaxation.


Orange is a great mix of the warmth of red with the optimism of yellow. Its association with the fruit that is its namesake creates feelings of well-being and freshness. It stands for illumination, quality, and action but can also point us towards aggression and domination. In China, it’s considered a color of transformation.

Various tones and shades of orange have different effects on us. Use light pastel tones to create connotations like sweet and conversational. More vibrant shades of orange represent vitality and encouragement. Although it’s an attention-grabbing color, designers use it sparingly, as it can also turn people off.

Orange is associated with good value and used for youthful and energetic brands. It’s used to communicate fun and draw attention in industries like food, sport, entertainment, and the arts. Fanta, Nickelodeon, and Firefox make use of the cheerful and friendly connotations of orange.

Highlight Creativity and Vibrancy

Use orange to evoke feelings of creativity and determination in your art and design. These two associations create the perfect atmosphere to promote an upcoming event. For this design, we experimented with multiple shades to determine what works best.

Apply different shapes in various colors to see what fits and to create your effective tagline and title. Ensure the choice of font you go for matches with the rest of your design and the colors with the hues of orange you decided to use.

Combine Light and Dark with Orange and Black

Color Combination Strokes of Orange (FFB700FF) and Black (000000FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

Light and dark color schemes create interesting effects in graphic design. Black and orange are one of these stylish combos where orange illuminates the darkness of black.

In your designs, the sincere and practical black can be lightened up by the associations with creativity and exuberance of orange.


Yellow is a friendly, energetic, and sunny color. It’s such a distinct color that it can easily be made out from a distance, which makes it the perfect color to use for warning signs. Use yellow wisely in your designs, as it can create a dramatic contrast toeing the line between a cheerful outlook and a cautionary signal.

Bright yellow is a bold and eye-catching hue that represents warmth, energy, and happiness. Darker shades of yellow can have connotations of jealousy, decay, and disease.

Yellow is commonly used in industries like food, sports, transportation, travel, and leisure. Brands like National Geographic, Nikon, and Ikea use associations with optimism, clarity, and warmth in their logos, which reflects their brand identity.

Make Your Message Clear Using the Right Color Meaning

Yellow is one of the best colors to use to create a warning or a message of caution. Focus on one shade to make your design more striking.

The message in our design needs to have an impact, so we reel viewers in by mainly using the color yellow. The black text then catches the focus with its powerful contrast to convey important information.

Create an Optic Flow with Mustard and Black

Color Combination Strokes of Mustard (F3CA20FF) and Black (000000FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

Yellow and black color combinations have associations with masculinity and a modern approach. There are also strong connotations of danger through warning signs.

Mustard as a darker shade of yellow is an intriguing and distinctive color but is also used to relax and soothe. The contrast with black creates an optic flow, as the lighter color illuminates the darker one.


Green represents rebirth, youth, prosperity, and progress. It can have a calming and relaxing effect on our bodies and fosters creativity. Despite that, green can also trigger negative associations like greed, envy, and sickness.

Not every shade of green is going to have the same meaning. For example, neon green isn’t necessarily the best choice for an environmentally friendly brand although green is generally associated with nature. In this case, you want to go for lighter greens that indicate vitality and renewal to give your eco-friendly brand a boost.

Next to its relaxing connotation green also stands for finance and wealth. It’s often used in industries like banking, real estate, and farming. Brands like Animal Planet, Spotify, or the Holiday Inn use it for its qualities of peace, health, and growth.

Apply Green Color Symbolism for a Natural and Healthy Look

Use various shades of fresh greens to invoke nature and create a calming effect with your design. Photos or icons of plants add an atmospheric touch. You can use this to grab the attention of your followers on social media. The natural green background underlines the white text. 

The choice of fonts to go with your composition is as important as the copy to make sure you highlight the feeling of serenity. Pick a light yet lively font style. The use of a handwritten style in our design creates a more personal connection. We also blurred the background to keep the focus on the words.

Create an Unexpected Effect with Light Green and Light Pink

Color Combination Strokes of Light Green (9CF39EFF) and Light Pink (F8AFF2FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

This combination stands out through the contrast that catches your eye instantly. This combo is often used to create a refreshing look reminiscent of spring.

If you want to make it more atmospheric and cozy, just deepen the tones with rich moss green and a dusky rose pink.


Blue is the color of the sea and sky. Use blue to create calm, cool, and peaceful spaces. Blue induces feelings of rest, tranquility, and devotion but can also represent depression, doubt, and emotional distance. In countries like Korea, Iran, and Egypt it’s even seen as a color of mourning.

Choose your shade of blue wisely as the spectrum takes you from dependable to calming to sad. For instance, darker shades of blue like navy, midnight blue, and dark blue symbolize intelligence, confidence, stability, and power.

Businesses use blue to demonstrate reliability and strength. It’s used by brands like IBM, Dell, and Twitter. Lighter blues are often used in the entertainment sector and for children’s products. Darker blues are applied in industries like security finance, technology, and healthcare.

Display Confidence and Stability

Tap into the power of blue and exude an air of tranquility and reliability. Experiment with various shades to find the blues that work well together. Blue induces trust and reliability, two connotations many brands are keen to use.

In our sample design, we use various shades of blue in the icons, text, and background to heighten feelings of safety and calm. Make sure your text stands out by using a darker shade and choose a more serious and easily legible font.

A Color Combo that Never Looks Out of Place: Royal Blue and White

Color Combination Strokes of Royal Blue (4169E1FF) and White (FFFFFFFF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

Royal blue is bold and playful and the combination with white creates a stark contrast that enhances both colors and their meanings.

This combination is professional and sophisticated but also creates a relaxed attitude. It doesn’t attract too much attention, which makes it a good combo to use with other colors in your design.


Purple is most famous for being the color of royalty and luxury, as it used to be an expensive color to make. It also stands for creativity and innovation but can have negative connotations like arrogance and cruelty.

When you use purple in your design, be aware that certain hues make us feel unsettled. Darker shades represent opulence and nobility. Lighter shades of purple create associations with femininity and nostalgia.

Purple is also a trendy and friendly color that is often used by brands to market to women. Hallmark and Cadbury use feelings of luxury and sensuality associated with purple for their branding.

Claim Exclusivity through the Symbolism Inherent in Purple

Start trending with hues of purple that make your design pop. Use this eye-catching color to promote high-quality services. The backdrop we chose for our design creates connotations of exclusivity. As it’s a busy background, the white font is a simple and contrasting choice.

Select your focal point carefully and guide the eyes towards it. The visual hierarchy in this design is determined by the purple lights that direct us to look deeper into the background where we find the most important information like the name and date of the event.

Bring out Positivity with Purple and Dark Green

Color Combination Strokes of Purple (802CECFF) and Dark Green (1E5819FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

This aubergine-inspired color scheme is a perfect harmony of positive colors and will always be in style.

Also reminiscent of purple flowers in a sea of green, this color combination adds vitality and energy to any design.


Pink symbolizes romance, tenderness, and frivolity. In Korea, it also represents trust. Pink softens the mood as it cools down the fiery passion of red. It’s a great color to experiment with.

A distinction between shades is important here to regulate emotions on the spectrum from heightened to soothed. Dark pinks conjure up feelings that are more closely connected to the passion and aggression of red. Pale pinks, on the other hand, have a proven calming effect.

Historically, pink carries strong connections with femininity and is traditionally used for women’s products. It’s commonly used in the beauty and fashion industry. Brands like Barbie and Hello Kitty make use of the associations with creativity, playfulness, and imagination.

Pink Colors Symbolize Awareness and Grab Attention

Pink is very much an awareness color with strong connections to causes like breast cancer awareness. It stands out drawing the eyes towards the important message in this design. The imagery and color don’t necessarily need anything added for the viewer to know what’s going on here. The white font creates an effective contrast to reinforce the message.

Although the white copy is a bold font style, it doesn’t overpower the icon or background. Breast cancer awareness slightly moves in the background but still sticks out in all caps. Experiment with different shades of pink to get the most effective hues for your design.

Use the Cultural Harmony of Hot Pink and Sky Blue

Color Combination Strokes of Hot Pink (FF69B4FF) and Sky Blue (00B5E2FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

Pinks and blues don’t necessarily complement each other but we’re used to seeing them together. Although these stereotypes are starting to change, it’s still a deeply ingrained cliché that pink is for girls and blue is for boys.

Hot pink is energetic and youthful and works well with sky blue as it tempers the vibrancy of the darker pink shade.


Black has qualities of luxury, power, and exclusivity but also negative connotations as the color of mourning and evil. It’s also the color of darkness, which gives a dramatic feel to it. In many African countries, black also stands for age and wisdom.

Black is a bold classic and your choice of a glossy or matte texture can create different effects in your designs. Use this color in moderation, as it can become imposing if overused. You can easily create contrast with a bright color or keep it simple with a black and white design.

Black is a color that is often used for luxury brands because of its association with sophistication. Brands across all industries use black to evoke feelings of power, authority, discipline, or create associations with mystery.

Black Symbolizes Effective Luxury

The classic combination of black and white can be highly effective for many types of businesses. Similar to purple, use black to convey exclusivity but in a less excessive way.

Designers and marketers use it to deliver powerful and clear messages. In our design, black is used to highlight a professional service. If your design is mainly black, make sure you also use lighter colors to make elements or text stand out. We used white to keep this business card simple.

Timeless Color Meaning of Black and White

Color Combination Strokes of Black (000000FF) and White (FFFFFFFF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

Use this sophisticated and classic color combo for contemporary and classy looks in your designs. Black and white can be both traditional and modern.

The contrast between the dominant black and the peaceful white makes this combination highly effective. It’s a visual symbiosis as black becomes darker and white is highlighted.


White stands for simplicity, purity, and perfection. Use white to represent cleanliness and neutrality but be aware that it can also seem sterile and create distance. Consider how much white you want to use for your designs. It’s often used for minimalist and modern designs but too much of it can be intense in an unpleasant way.

Choose an off-white color for your design if you’re looking for a subtle shade that represents sophistication and elegance. It’s a great accent color that brings out the brightness and depth of other colors.

Next to simplicity and purity, white can also represent a fresh start, goodness, and openness. Brands like Nike, WWF, and the BBC used these characteristics to create their striking logos.

Keep it Clear and Simple

White space is often used by various brands to convey simplicity and ease of use. Our gift voucher design doesn’t go overboard simply stating what it is in front of a white background. You can play around with colors to see what suits but don’t go overboard moving away from the intended minimalism.

We used the already established color connections of white, red, and blue with the barber profession for our design. The classic white background also offered a lot of room to experiment with text color and other elements.

Spread the Warmth with Cream and Chocolate Brown

Color Combination of Cream (FFFDD0FF) and Chocolate Brown (7B3F00FF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

Use this mouth-watering color combination to whet the appetites of your audience. Unlike a simple brown, chocolate brown is a more vibrant shade.

It’s the shade of milk chocolate automatically making it look warm and inviting. In combination with the pale hue of cream, you can add a wonderful warming touch to your designs.


Gray sits between the strong opposition of black and white. It’s a cool, unemotional color with intellectual connotations showing the ability to see nuances and both sides of an argument. 

Gray is a neutral color but dark gray shades carry associations with depression and loneliness. Be careful of how much gray you use in your design, as it reduces the energy coming from other colors.  

Brands like Honda, Apple, and Wikipedia use gray for its qualities of balance, calm, and neutrality. It’s used across all industries mainly in combination with other colors to create connections with formality and timelessness.

Establish a Base to Build On

Gray is a neutral color, which makes it a great foundation for the rest of your design. The refined and sophisticated look it gives the information and elements is perfect for a business card. 

Add a splash of a more lively color like the blue in our design to make it pop. The blue gives our business card an extra lift. Experiment with different shades of gray to see what fits best with your brand.

The Pantone Colors of the Year 2021: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating

Pantone Color Combination of Ultimate Gray (949398FF) and Illuminating (F4DF4EFF) - Color theory for designers: The art of using color symbolism - Image

This combination of gray and yellow wins with its stark contrast. The somber Ultimate Gray brightens up with the rays of sunshine brought in by the shade of yellow that is Illuminating.

In your designs, you can use the bright accent color of Illuminating to direct the eyes towards your focal point. As a whole, this combo represents positivity and fortitude.

Elisabeth Strasser

Elisabeth Strasser

Lizzie is a professional Content Writer. She's been passionate about SEO and content marketing ever since a life-changing internship at a digital marketing agency while completing her BA in English and American Studies.

Having graduated with a Professional Writing MA with distinction, Lizzie set out to gain her copywriting and digital marketing experience in Cork City.

An Austrian with a love for Ireland, Lizzie loves exploring Irish folklore and storytelling. Her favourite DW tools are:
Youtube Outro Maker and Add Logo to Video tools.