History of Color

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History of Color

Color associations are not essentially universal. Colors have varying meanings, histories, symbolism, and associations across cultures.



  • White color is the first color in history to be used in art when Paleolithic artists drew using calcite and chalk. Historically, white has been used to symbolize goodness, sacredness, spirituality, and purity.
  • Ancient Egyptian gods, Roman goddesses as well as Greek gods were portrayed as clad in white as a symbol of their divinity.
  • White color is considered to mean purity and innocence. A bride putting on white was considered to convey the virginity of the bride.
  • White is linked to emotions of sterility and coldness.
  • White is used in marketing and logos of brands like Lego, Ford, Apple, Starbucks, and Michelin.
  • The white color is associated with modern day technology as it represents clean, sophistication, and efficiency.


  • Yellow is an historic color that derives the pigment from clay and is thought to be among the first colors to be used as paint in prehistoric cave art.
  • The first application of yellow color is thought to be more than 17,300 years ago. It was used by Ancient Egyptians to represent eternal and indestructible.
  • The meaning of yellow color revolves around sunshine. Yellow color evokes feelings of happiness, optimism, and positivity.
  • Considering shades of yellow, bright yellow brings a sense of cheerfulness, light yellow a calm sense of happiness, while dark yellow a sense of permanence.
  • Ferrari and Ikea brands largely use yellow.
  • Yellow is associated with luxury lifestyle because it represents a feeling of happiness and joy.


  • Purple has a long noble and regal history as it was worn by the high status and royal descent in the Byzantine, Japanese aristocracy and Holy Roman Empires. Until 1856, purple symbolized royalty and nobility.
  • Purple is still used by the British royal family showing that it is still as color of the royals.
  • Purple color means Power, loyalty, nobility, and luxury.
  • The color is associated with the feeling of frustration.
  • Purple can be both cool and warm based on particular shades. The lighter end is lavender and this pale, soft shade represents femininity, tenderness, and romance as well as nostalgia. More vibrant purple symbolize royalty, extravagance, and nobility while deeper, darker shades promote aspects of gloom, seriousness, and professionalism.
  • Luxurious and expensive brands like Hallmark and luxe whiskey brand Crown Royal use purple in their logos.


  • The meaning of pink revolves around femininity, unconditional love, and playfulness. Preference on shades of red and crimson reduced the use of pink in history. The color found its way to world of fashion, art, and design during the renaissance.
  • Pink symbolizes femininity and hence, it is used globally in the campaign against breast cancer.
  • Considering shades of pink, softer, light tones mostly promote love, girlhood, gentleness, nurturing, and increased female physical strength.
  • Priceline, Victoria’s Secret, and Barbie brands heavily use pink color. One of the Victoria’s Secret brands is named Pink.


  • Brown is among the first pigments used in prehistoric times and has been consistently used in art and culture.
  • Brown stems from Ancient Rome where it was used to symbolize lower-class, barbarism, and low economic rankings. Monks of the Franciscan order wore brown color as a sign of poverty and humility.
  • In the modern world, brown color means comfortable, secure and down to earth (quality) associations.
  • Ugg and Cotton brands heavily use brown in their branding.
  • Brown is associated with the solid earth because it represents stability and support.


We began our research by consulting sites that mention history and meaning attributed to different colors. In order to identify history and meaning associations of different colors authoritative sites such as Design99, Canvas, Information Science, and VeryWellMind that directly tackle the particulars of the research subject. Based on these resources, we identified the history and meanings of white, yellow, pink, purple, and brown colors as well as the emotions associated with them and their different shades and the brands where they are dominantly used.