An understanding of cultural color and symbolism is essential to anyone doing business with other countries and other societies. These associations with color have been a part of many societies for centuries and you must be aware of both the positive and the negative implications of using particular colors when marketing to these societies.

Human colour vision and perception begins long before human history, and even long before the history of vertebrates. Recent evidence suggests that the basis for colour vision may be between 500 to 800 million years old. Our first mammalian ancestors, between 220 million and 100 million years ago, lost much of the full colour vision appreciated by other vertebrates, given that they had taken to the safety of nocturnal life.The more recent ancestor of humans and their next of kin “re-evolved” full colour vision, giving us a world of full colour, instead of the limited blues and yellows of other mammals. This ability to see a greater volume of colours coincided with the loss of much of our sense of smell—committing us to a greater reliance on our eyes than many of our fellow mammals. The new ability to see red gave us and our next of kin a great advantage—greater ability to see fruits, as well as the warning colors of nature. The earliest examples of human art demonstrate the use of colour.

Though humans have the ability to see a great range of colours, comparisons of human languages demonstrate that we do not necessarily all make the same distinctions between colors, nor are all of these distinctions necessary for our survival. However, distinguishing red from other colors is one of the first, second and only to a fundamental division between black and white.

Though colour distinctions may vary among populations, they are varied in a predictable and regular fashion, which may reflect human perceptual universals.