For a good long time, folks avoided using red in their signage. This was especially true for the retail and science industry. We were told it was taboo: red is bad. You know, unless you were either McDonalds or Coca-Cola, who for the longest time proved with their logo that sometimes it is best to break the rules.
But the 21st century has come along and we’ve since seen a renaissance of red. From Crimson to wine, Scarlet to Chestnut, businesses have not only found that it’s okay to let customers see a little red, but that it’s actually a really, really good idea.
What was some of that old thinking? According to psychologist - the same ones who told the fast food chains that brown and orange were good ideas (sorry, Arbys) - red came with several bad connotations.
Accountants - typically the last department that should make creative and graphical decisions - would point out that seeing red numbers in business meant that you have endured a loss. Loss which would lead to failure. And people listened.
Blood is also the color of red when it is exposed to air. The color of blood leads to the process of death: anxiety, fear, warning, “danger-danger, Will Robinson,” and the inevitable end.
It was also the color that lead to anger and agitation. The whole, “never show red to a bull,” thing is true. With humans, the traditional thinking wasn’t too dissimilar. The phrase, “seeing red,” was crafted within our culture over time, not in a focus group on Madison Avenue.
In recent years, it has been discovered that a color that can stir such emotion, albeit negative, can also stir as much of a reaction when done for positive means. It encourages people to use a little less of their head and a little more of their heart when making decisions.
Red has also become to represent power and passion in western civilization. This is something Eastern civilizations has known for centuries. There’s a reason why Japan and China uses red as a prominent color in their country’s colors.
The great thing about red is that each shade can elicit completely different analytical and emotional reactions. While, shades like Lust and Scarlet can encourage more of the more animalistic side of life, shades such as Redwood and Tuscan Red are typically warmer and more compassionate in tone.
Red might be the one color that has a shade for every emotion. And given its resurgence, one should probably shed aside conventional reservations for the color.
The world has changed. There’s a good chance a shade of red represents it.