Inside the Palette: Pink Color Meaning

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Fact-checked by Layla Varela
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Updated on: April 21, 2023

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There are colors that, despite provoking innocence and calm, are loaded with high political symbolism—one of those is pink. 

Generally associated with femininity, the truth is that throughout history, this tone, born from the mixture of red, blue and white, has been related to multiple ideas and social causes. But what does its use in design convey? Here is what pink means in color theory.

Who owns pink?

There was a time when the idea of using pink for boys and blue for girls was the rule. For example, in June 1918, towards the end of World War I, the Ladies Home Journal, a prominent women's magazine in America that is still circulating today, offered advice to concerned mothers about their kid's development. The publication suggested much debate, but the consensus was to dress boys in pink and girls in blue. 

This convention became so ingrained that, even in 1927, it was an event worthy of coverage in Time magazine that Princess Astrid of Belgium had decorated her newborn daughter's bedroom in pink. 

That detail hinted at her failed illusion of having expected a son instead of a girl since pink, being a color derived from red, was associated with strength and a strong personality: characteristics related only to boys until the first half of the twentieth century, according to popular magazines like Ladies Home Journal.

However, several historians argue that the use of pink as a gender signifier for women occurred after World War II and had more to do with aesthetic strategies that sought to further the campaign to "re-feminize" the post-war woman in her return to the traditional role of the homemaker.

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The meaning of pink in different cultures

  • Childhood and Nostalgia

Beyond the debate of which gender it suits best, pink is composed chiefly of two peaceful tones that evoke more tranquility than exaltation. And since it is one of the colors used for a century to distinguish a baby in Western culture, pink, especially when it is pastel, is a color that leads to nostalgia for childhood and conveys innocence, tenderness, kindness, and compassion.

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  • Trust and Calm

No. Not all over the world are colors exclusive to one sex, as is often the case in America and Europe. In Japan, for example, pink is commonly accepted as a genderless color, and there is no prejudice whether a man or a woman wears it.

In other places such as Korea, while pink during the eighteenth century was worn mainly by officers, today, it is associated with trust. Both details are linked to one premise: pink tends to generate calm, and its presence reduces violent behavior.

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The psychology behind pink

  • The Color of Femininity

There are studies, such as one published in 2007 by the University of Newcastle, where most women chose reddish colors (including pink) as their favorite. However, this result, which hinted at the possibility that biologically females are attracted to pink by associating the color of the faces of newborns of mammals such as primates with the maternal instinct, did not consider factors such as the influence of marketing in the choice of responses.

That is crucial because even though this shade is still associated with femininity, the perception of women's supposed natural inclination for pink also ignores that, when it comes to science, there is research done with children where boys identified the color blue with no problem, but, at the same time, some girls pronounced "Barbie" to refer to pink.

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  • Romantic and Tender Love

While red is typically associated with passion, pink, as its closest relative, represents tenderness and affection and symbolizes a more intimate type of gentle and considerate love since it's often used to convey nurturing feelings.

However, although public opinion surveys indicate that pink is often associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, sweetness, and softness when combined with black or violet, it can also be linked to eroticism and seduction.

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  • Passivity and inexperience vs. health and strength. 

There are some negative psychological associations implied by the relationship of pink with the innocence of youth, as there can also be a tendency to link this color with passivity or inexperience.

However, from medicine and organizations representing people with breast cancer to social movements, there have been attempts to redefine pink within the gender discussion. 

This new way of understanding and using pink as a political statement involves seeing it as a color that, instead of signifying weakness, passivity, or inexperience, also represents feminine strength and good health.

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Using pink in Branding

Many brands exploit pink to reaffirm one or more of the messages we have seen. For example, Victoria's Secret highlights the mix of femininity and sensuality, while Mary Kay uses it to represent female empowerment through personal care and beauty.

However, some brands also use pink, even though they are not gender-oriented, such as T-Mobile, where pink enhances energy and modernity.

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If you are thinking of using pink in your brand, it's essential to carefully consider the specific shade of pink you choose, as this color can hold various meanings. 

For example, some designers say soft pinks make excellent primary choices in your color scheme to create a calming effect and a sense of warmth for your audience. In contrast, hot pinks are best to grab people's attention and motivate them to take action. 

To find out your ideal pink, you can continue exploring more design tips with color theory experts and top software professionals in our design courses at Skillademia.

Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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