Express meaning with color temperature

Many times I have seen an introduction to color theory in design, however most of them were focused in their chromatic nature.

Recently I was thinking that color temperature, brightness, saturation… also have a meaning. Like when bright colors transmit youth and dark ones a sense of seriousness.

Do professionals use some type of tools or techniques to ensure a uniform use of color temperature? How do they measure them?

I am just a programmer with some interest in design, so for me color is evaluated just by the RGB values allowed in a browser. Most of my interest lies in finding more formal ways to think, track, balance and document color choices.


There is no way to map a given color to any form form of expression or meaning. If there would be any, I wouldn’t trust it.

Colors (or anything else for that matter) doesn’t have meaning. Nothing has meaning. Meaning isn’t something absolute or measureable like mass or wave-length. Meaning or any form of emotional effect is something that is given by the viewer. Someone looks at a given color and thinks it feels warm, or remembers him of summer or make something look serious.

This is an unbelievable complex problem, but there is one main reasons why you can’t get what you are asking for:

Meaning arises from context

The meaning of anything (not just color) depends on what it’s context is in. A dark grey can mean serious business, but it can also mean death and could therefor be associated with the gothic scene. For basically anything the spectrum of possible meanings is so large that it could be anywhere.

Lets for example look at the color orange. Here are a few examples how we can change the meaning of the color orange:

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  • What color is next to it
  • What is surrounding the color
  • What kind of object the color is used for
  • How large is the portion of a given color

While all images use the same orange, the emotional reaction and the meaning will differ in all images. This is something you can easily check for yourself by looking at those pictures and trying to check what the oranges feels like to you in every single one. On top of that you get another problem:

Cultural difference

Depending on what culture you have grown up in, what you have experienced in life, where you live in the world etc. the meaning of things (including color) can change dramatically — making it impossible to say what a single color means.

In summary this was a really long answer to say: What you are asking for can’t be done and you shouldn’t even try to approach the problem from this point of view. Rather accept the complicated nature of the problem, instead of trying to simplify it to a point where you trust you predictions, even though they would basically be completely random.

Source : Link , Question Author : SystematicFrank , Answer Author : Community

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