Color Meaning: Meaning of The Color Red

Color has a huge impact on our emotions, our perceptions, and our spiritual and physical well being. When choosing colors for your brand, color that will represent you, your business, and your message, are you choosing the right colors? Understanding the meaning behind color is important. When you understand the meaning and power a color holds you can leverage that to help you better communicate your message and connect with your clients and customers.

That is exactly why I am doing the Color Meaning Blog Series, detailing the meanings associated with colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, grey, black, white, brown, pink, turquoise, gold, silver, and beige.

Red, the color of blood and fire, is associated with meanings of love, passion, desire, heat, longing, lust, sexuality, sensitivity, romance, joy, strength, leadership, courage, vigor, willpower, rage, anger, danger, malice, wrath, stress, action, vibrance, radiance, and determination.

Red is assertive, daring, determined, energetic, powerful, enthusiastic, impulsive, exciting, and aggressive. Red represents physical energy, lust, passion, and desire. It symbolizes action, confidence, and courage. The color red is linked to the most primitive physical, emotional, and financial needs of survival and self-preservation.

The color red is an intense color that is packed with emotion ranging from passionate, intense love to anger and violence — representing both cupid and the devil. It is a hot, strong, stimulating color that represents excitement and energy. Studies show that the color red can create physical effects such as elevated blood pressure, enhanced libido, increased respiratory rates, enhanced metabolism, increased enthusiasm, higher levels of energy, and increased confidence.

The color red is a highly visible color that is able to focus attention quickly and get people to make quick decisions, which is one of the reasons fire trucks and fire engines are usually painted red. Flashing red lights mean danger or emergency, while stop signs and stop lights use the color red to alert drivers about the dangers of the intersection.

Red represents power and courage. The color red is the basis of the traditional red power tie or red suit in business, and the red carpet for celebrities and VIPs. Red’s association with courage and bravery makes it a color that is used often in national flags, on shields, and in achievement patches.

Too much red causes loss of temper, agitation, anger, and overbearing, demanding, and oppressive behaviors. Too little red causes lethargic, cautious, whiny, and manipulative feelings. To get out of control emotions under control add green, the opposite of red. To get rid of exhaustion, add more red.

In different cultures red carries different meanings. In some cultures, red represents purity, joy, and celebration and is a traditional color worn by brides. In China, red is used for good luck and represents happiness and prosperity. In South Africa, red is the color of mourning and in Russia red is associated with communism because in history, used a red flag when they overthrew the Tsar. In the United States, red, when combined with white and blue represent patriotism and pride of country.

Red gemstones are believed to increase enthusiasm and interest, boost energy, create confidence, and offer protection from fears and anxieties.

Other meanings associated with the color red:

  • When the color green and the color red are combined, they traditionally represent Christmas and the joyous holiday season.
  • Red is often associated with the fortieth wedding anniversary, as the red ruby is the traditional fortieth wedding anniversary gift.
  • Barns and large structures have been traditionally painted red because the red paint was the most inexpensive paint to purchase and the easiest paint to manufacture.
  • A red rose without thorns is a symbol of passion, love, and romance. While a red rose with thorns typically exemplifies the struggle and challenges associated with journey of love, meaning that it can be both joyous, fulfilling and delicate, as well as painful and cruel.
  • The saying “in the red” means losing money, no money, or overdrawing your account at the bank and is thought to come from the feelings of stress and anxiousness and the physical symptoms they cause such as elevated blood pressure and often anger or danger.
  • The term “red herring” is used when referencing something that is deceiving, dishonest, or distracting from the truth.
  • The phrase “paint the town red” is associated with celebration, partying, abandon, fun, and excitement.
  • The expression “seeing red” is thought to be based on the physical characteristic of anger, including redness of the cheeks, physical exertion, and elevated blood pressure.
  • The term “red eye” is associated with overnight airline flights due to the perceived lack of sleep passengers receive and the appearance of red in the whites of their eyes as a result.
  • The saying “red carpet treatment” refers to making someone feel special and pampered as if they are a VIP or high profile person.
  • The phrase “red flag” is often used in reference to a warning of danger, problems, fighting, and war.

Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color red: scarlet, crimson, vermillion, carmine, maroon, burgundy, ruby, rose, madder, rouge, brick, blood red, blush, fire engine red, cinnabar, russet, rust, Venetian red, flame, Indian red, tomato.

About Jennifer Bourn

As Creative Director of Bourn Creative, Jennifer leads all consulting, strategy, and creative projects. She is an award-winning designer, specializing in custom WordPress theme design, brand design, Legos (Yes, Legos), and graphic design for small business.

Entrenched in the world of online business, Jennifer consults with clients around the world on branding, website planning, and marketing strategies that leverage the internet to generate leads, attract clients, and create opportunities. She speaks regularly at live events, conferences, and workshops around the country, as well as on radio shows, teleclases, webinars, and podcasts.

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Comments & Feedback:

  1. I agree, red is a powerful, commanding color. We actually went with red on my latest book cover, it’s bold, but we love it!

    • Andrea – I have always been drawn to red! We just bought all new bedding red/black and grey and my main color for Bourn Creative is red. I love the power and passion it carries in its meaning :)

  2. Hi Jennifer!

    I love this in-depth overview of the color red. Interesting to see all the things it is associated with and how it’s been used around the world.

    This has definitely given me a better understanding of the color red, and some ideas on how to better use it. ;)

    • Jess – I get asked all the time about color meaning when we’re working with a client on branding … when you can understand the meaning associated with a particular color, you really can assess if it is a good choice to represent you or your brand :)

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