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Colour Culture as a Visualisation of Values and Emotions Case: China

Kirsi Kommonen , Zhao Yan

This paper answers to recent calls for research on a significant but under-studied aspect of design, the role of colours (Aslam, 2006; Garber & Hyatt 2003). The focus is on a phenomenon named Colour Culture (Kommonen 2008) referring to shared meanings invested in colours by people of the same culture. Reportedly, colours are invested different meanings in China than in Western countries (Madden, Hewett, Roth 2000; Kress & van Leeuwen 2002; Ou Li-Chen et al. 2004). However, previous research offers few explanations to the dynamic nature of these meanings. The present study describes and analyses Chinese colour culture as it emerges in business contexts. Interestingly, colours in China appear to manifest shared cultural values and personal emotions. Findings from qualitative empirical study reveal how contemporary changes in political, economic and socio-cultural values become visible as Chinese colour culture evolves, and how this transformation gives opportunities for the ‘post-80’s generation’ to express their emotions with colours.


China, colour, culture, Emotions, generation, Values