Cultural Color Infographic

The Cultural Color Study examines the relationship between color perception and cultural experience through the analysis of existing research and new user research.

Role: Product Designer

Duration: January 2018 - April 2018

Team: 1 Product Designer

Client: Rochester Institute of Technology


I began cultural color theory research for my thesis, gathering information to learn more about cultural impacts of color perceptions. This infographic takes initial research for my thesis and manifests itself as a piece of informational marketing to gather more user research on the subject.


As a design student, I used multiple online color palette pickers to decide how I was going to approach color in my projects. But I wasn't sure how specific user groups viewed color. The problem was, I could only find color palette generators that were based on color theory or accessibility.

Designers don't have an application in place to help them easily identify the perception of colors from a holistic perspective- theoretically, accessibility, and culturally/psychologically. 


This infographic was made to find my target users for the color application that I wanted to make. The target infographic was presented at IMAGINE RIT to a group of users 7-65 years old, with a diverse background of socioeconomic statuses and demographics, all with an underlying interest in technology and creativity. This user group also had a large percentage of artists and designers- people whose creations are impacted by cultural color theory.


My goal with the creation of this infographic was to educate users and designers about cultural color perceptions, along with influencing them to take the survey I created. This survey would give me information to identify user groups to study for creating my cultural color application.


My strategy was to create something captivating by revealing unexpected knowledge and using engaging visual design. I used conversation to draw users in. I spoke about how color changes how we internalize our environments and designs, then presented the proof with my infographic. After an explanation, with a length of conversation that fit each user, I proctored the survey and guided them through it depending on their questions or need for assistance. This would ensure user education along with engagement in the survey.


  1. Color perception is subjective. There is no concrete universal reaction, perception, or understanding of one color except for the highly researched Baker Miller Pink.
  2. Color is viewed differently depending on culture. 178 designers graduating from the same design program, from different cultural backgrounds, were found to have differing perceptions in colors they were using to design with. They were basing their decisions off what they believed the colors to mean, assuming that the user group would agree. This goes to show that life experience and culture have a lasting impact on how we perceive color.
  3. People make decisions based on color attractiveness. Color preference plays a strong role in the perception of what one is consuming. One study set out to see how color is perceived in icon-type images. The purpose was to increase the effectiveness of icons being made. The findings show that the color attractiveness in its usage is more impactful than its meaning. The strength that the color has over the design perception is noted by designers who look for the right formula in making color choices.
  4. Color theory impacts color attractiveness. Different types of color palettes and combinations that color theory can generate, creates overall moods for the user. The perceptions across the board aren't the same, but the palettes have the power to create a scheme for a designer. Different types of color combinations can do different things. For example, complementary colors make each other stand out of the crowd. They make each other louder than they really are.
  5. Color accessibility impacts color perception. This finding brings to light that, biologically, not everyone sees the same colors the same way. Because of this, their perception is different (if it wasn't already because of their unique background and culture). Accessibility color palette generators are helpful in that they can create palettes that everyone can view easily and effectively. Designers must take into account accessibility to make effective designs.
  6. Proximity to another color changes how a color is perceived. Color perception is impacted largely by the colors next to it or touching it. You can see for yourself by doing mini-challenges that Josef Albers provides in his book, The Interaction of Color. You notice immediately that the colors surrounding the color you're trying to view, are just as impactful as the color in focus.
  7. Color is viewed differently depending on the application within a design. Findings of why people are drawn to certain colors over others has been tied to how it is presented to them within product design. They compared the perception of the same color shown in both a swatch and on a product. The purpose was to see if there was a difference in color perception once it was applied to a product and given a context. There is a 43% difference in perception of color when it is a swatch versus when it is applied. This shows that swatches are viewed differently depending on their application as well.



  1. How old are you?
  2. Please list the places you have lived for 5 years or longer (# of years, City, State/Country).
  3. Do you have a religion? If so, what is your religion?
  4. Were you raised with a religion? If so, what was the religion you were raised with?
  5. What is your nationality?
  6. What racial group do you identify most with?
  7. Are you a first-generation America?
  8. Where did your parents spend most of their lives?
  9. Make your own color combination that's the most attractive to you. (2 colors)
  10. Make your own color palette that's the most attractive to you. (4 colors)
  11. What does the color red mean to you?
  12. What does the color yellow mean to you?
  13. What does the color green mean to you?
  14. What does the color blue mean to you?
  15. What does the color purple mean to you?
  16. What does the color white mean to you?
  17. What does the color black mean to you?
  18. What does the color brown mean to you?
  19. What does the color orange mean to you?


The concept I developed for people to take interest in participating in the survey, was to create an infographic that captured their attention with surprising information and captivating visuals. I sorted through my research on cultural color and found a study that perfectly summarized the impact of cultural color perception to both designers and those interested in design/technology/creativity (my target user group at IMAGINE RIT). This study showed that not only non-designers but designers were biased towards colors depending on their personal experiences, even when they attended the same design school. Teaching people color theory doesn't mean that they can erase their personal experiences with color.


I chose to take a storybook approach to organize the information in the most digestible way possible. I used short sentences and phrases, made it easy to understand with the imagery, and had a beginning, climax, and end. And then I gave the user an opportunity to take action. The flow between the information was linear, fluid, and intuitive, up to down, left to right. Information that was closely connected were close in proximity or together in a miniature diagram to digest as one entity. Only information that was necessary was included visually or through text, there was nothing extraneous or without purpose.



  1. A major challenge I dealt with was figuring out where to start with the massive amount of research needed to successfully create a cultural color palette generator when the amount of research on cultural color is very slim.
  2. I had challenges finding peer-reviewed research that could impact my goal and problem. I had to investigate neighboring ideas and concepts, sift through them, and find what could actually apply to what I was doing.


  1. Cultural color perception is not just something that impacts the way we view color. The fact that life-experience of any subject, mode, or element can dictate how we view it, regardless of formal education, gives insight into family structures, the workplace, schools, etc.
  2. There are still many things to study about design that has barely been touched on!

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