Colour is extremely versatile in its uses. It can be used to make a statement, create an atmosphere, or call forth a response. Colour expresses outwards towards the world, but it also helps us to travel inwards towards spiritual states, towards our true self. We can use colour to get what we want from the world, or we can use it to find something in ourselves.
In fashion the cut and style of our clothes will express our values, but it is colour which will add the personal touch, showing something of our personality or our current state.
In décor colour will create an atmosphere, in a public space that is to say or do something to others. For example green in the hospital ward, yellow in the kindergarten. At home colours are a way to nourish ourselves. Particularly as we move into the more private areas of the house such as our bedroom. We choose colours that make us feel good, relaxed, nourished, revived or buoyant, what ever we wish.
In business colour can be used to achieve desired results. Blue is good for suits, (and the police). It looks authoritative, indeed it relates to the throat chakra which is the energy for the leader – the one who uses his voice to issue instructions. Surprisingly then it is also used for workers' overalls. Workers are not leaders but in this case, aside from not showing dirt too much, blue can keep workers aligned with the influence of the (blue) leader. Workers in red overalls could be stimulated by the red to rebel instead - red being the colour that stimulates "Stop", "No" and Revolution!
Marketing and Design
In marketing and design colour can help to support a message, green says fresh for vegetables (though not for meat!). Red says exciting, sexy. Gold (not too much) says quality. The associations for each colour play a vital role here, however they must also be modified for local cultural considerations. For example black is for funerals in the West, but in China white is used.
Art and culture
In the world of art and high culture colour plays an important symbolic role. In christian art for example the Virgin Mary typically appears in blue and white. These colours say heavenly (blue sky) and pure (white). She was a virgin, sexually (red) inactive. Her son Jesus as the Christ typically appears in red and white. White for purity again but red here is for action, engaging with the earth and life upon it. Jesus did not stay on the mountain meditating. He led a spiritual revolution in society.
On the street colour is used not just for signs but also as light itself. For example red is used not just on prohibitive road signs - No Entry etc. - but red also appears as the colour of car brake lights and as the "stop" colour in traffic lights. Red signals "Stop". But red also has the effect of waking us up, bringing us out of daydreams into the here and now. It is the colour for stop but also the energy that wakes us up. This is ideal when there is potential danger.
Symbol or stimulus?
The above example of red shows where colour begins to become used not just to represent something but actually to do something. In hospitals blue light helps jaundiced children to recover more quickly. Ultra violet, though not traditionally considered a colour as it is the next step up from violet in the spectrum, ultraviolet is used to kill bacteria. As mentioned elsewhere in this site, the red light of the red light district will energise the base chakra, thus stimulating interest and desire for sex. Colour acts upon our energy field and therefore our consciousness directly.
In counselling and therapy colour can be used as a way in. The colour choices we make not only say something about us but can also help us. In the right context those same chosen colours can help to stimulate thoughts and feelings, memories and states which will reveal our deeper processes. Colour is a tool that we not only use to affect the outside world, it is a tool that we can use to open up ourselves.