By Ivar Jung, Senior Lecturer Design at Linnaeus University Sweden

In order to create human comfort and wellbeing with colours we have to know how the colours are perceived and what associations the colours create within the persons exposed to the colours. What are the colour associations in other cultures? Do colours have different meanings in other cultures?

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The aim of this research is to investigate if there are distinctive patterns – similarities and differences – regarding how subjects from different cultures connect 24 selected words with colours. The paper will present the results of a comparative study between subjects’ colour associations in different cultures. The findings should be of interest for academics and professionals working in the remit of visual communication, architecture and design in different cultures.
The method used in this research has also been used in other studies, the first time in a pilot study made in Sweden and Nepal in 2016 which was presented at the AIC2016 conference in Santiago. Since then the number countries extended from 2 to 9.
The data in this study was collected in Germany, Iran, Japan, Nepal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey and Uganda. The subjects speak and understand English. They do not have any known colour defects and they are born and live in the same country. In the study, students and laypersons was given 24 words in English. The words that are investigated are of different characters; some of them may have a more obvious connection to colours, as the words ‘warm’ and ‘cold’. Others are more of an emotional character such as ‘sorrow’ and ‘happiness’ while others might be more subjective like the colours for the words ‘me’ and ‘others’. The 24 words tested in this study are warm, cold, sorrow, happiness, calm, upset, near, distant, young, old, feminine, masculine, fast, slow, strong, weak, false, true, cheap, expensive, friendly, dangerous, me and others. In total,
the dataset included 18,072 responses from 753 participants.

The subjects were asked to match each word to a colour from a chart with 27 selected colours from the NCS system. The results will be presented with statistics and diagrams showing the chosen colours, and analysed in terms of how coherent are the answers and which potential patterns emerge specific to the countries and their cultural contexts. It will be possible to compare the answers of groups separately and to analyse if there are differences in the chosen colours related to the subjects’ sex, age, religion and experience
of colour.