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to He who bled red that became life


introduction.........................1 red.........................3 blue.........................5 white.........................7 conclusion.........................9 bibliography.........................12


DUCTION Revolution has been a key scene where people have used principles of graphic design, specifically colour, to communicate a range and depth of emotions, ambitions and ideas. Revolutions represent change and a challenge to society and the use of colour evokes different responses and taps into the different perspectives of people. Colour itself was drawn from a range of sources across history. Without the use of conventional technology people often made associations with themes or the source of colour in the world around them. The unifying or divisive nature of revolution often meant that people had to adopt strong principles and represent the complex nature of politics, technology, philosophy and


change through the use of colour. These diverse areas are connected through innovation, religion, activism and wars. Throughout these periods and areas of revolution colour has been present and often an instigator of a response by society at large. The use of graphic design in times of revolution often took a careful regard of use of colours and the messages conveyed by this practice in the past and currently reflects the power of this tool. The colours used in revolutions continue to be a banner, a

herald and a signpost of the attitudes, values, and points of change in society that informs graphic design. This booklet will inspect the impact the colours red, white and blue have had on human society and how each of these colours’ complex heritage has been incorporated into conventional society.


Standing proudly in human history is the colour red. The colour itself espouses a strong tradition of being used to convey a message amongst people. This primal colour has been in use for a very long time, dating back to a period between 170000 and 14000 B.C. (Marean et al., 2007). Red is commonly associated with the notions of risk and emotions such as anger and love. (Heller, 2009) The emotions attached to this colour, therefore, made it into a common colour used in revolutions. During the French revolution of October 20, 1789, a red flag was used as the political symbol by the National Guard to indicate the event of a riot that required an intervention. From 1790 onwards, the red flag was adopted by the most radical revolutionaries as a symbol of the blood of those killed in demonstrations, and to incite a repression of counter revolutionaries (Pastoureau, 1998). This demonstrates that red was a powerful and recognizable symbol throughout periods of revolution.


The revolutionary capacity of the colour red implied more than a warning sign or a communicative device. This colour also took on its own cultural heritage and has continued to be adopted in political agendas and ideologies, such as communism and socialism (Ghosh, 2011). China for instance, adopted their red flag in 1920, which was the symbol of Mao Zedong’s party and became a distinctive colour in 1949 after the civil war. Mao Zedong’s party anthem was titled “The east is red” and Mao Zedong himself was known as the “Red Sun” (Time Magazine, 1970). The colour red was a dominant colour in revolutionary policy and practices during a period of change and immediately following this change, such as “red guards” enforcing communist ideologies and the popular “Red booklets” filled with quotes attributed to Mao Zedong (Xinhua

News, 2011). Following the extensive use in Russia and China the colour red began to symbolize the blood, suffering, toil and honor of the worker. This all played a role in causing red to be viewed as a colour of socialism and leftist politics. On the other hand red is also the current colour of the Republican Party who are associated with rightist political views (Ghosh, 2011). The use of a strong colour like red reflects not necessarily the party but the strong view points held by this party (Ghosh, 2011). Red thereby has become a colour often associated with vehement views and is established as a retaliatory colour. The differences and similarities between other colours of the spectrum presents an interesting comparison to the passion imbued in the colour red.


Contrary to common beliefs, blue has not always being a royal colour. In fact, blue was originally associated the poor. Historically speaking, blue was the colour worn by lower class, as the dye was made by soaking plant leaves in urine (Heller, 2009). This was the case up until 1130s when Saint Denis Basilica church was rebuilt in Paris. Upon its renovation, Abbe Sugar the architect installed stained glass window coloured with cobalt onto the new building, which filled the church with a bluish light. The trend soon caught on and elegant cobalt stained windows were installed in other churches in Paris such as Chartres Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle (Pastoureau, 2001). Around the same period, artists begin painting the Virgin Mary wearing blue robes. Prior to this, Mary is often seen wearing dark colours such as black and grey, however, a new blue pigment named ultramarine was introduced in the 12th century. This pigment gives a lighter and richer colour and was one of the most expensive paint painters could use. This dramatically increased the


amount of prestige connotated with blue, as well as its association to humility, holiness and virtue. (Bomford. D & Roy. A, 2009). In a recent survey conducted in Europe and U.S, blue was by far the most popular colour among both genders. It is often linked to the harmony, confidence, faithfulness and sometimes sadness. (Heller, 2009) Due to its emotional properties, blue has long being the representative colour for a number of centre right parties in many European countries such as Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Britian and also Canada. In 18th century, blue was the colour of revolution and liberty, however in 19th century blue became the colour associated with authorities and government – this is particularly demonstrated

by the uniform of police and other public servants (Pastoureau, 2001). Blue was chosen as it was thought to convey seriousness yet it was not menacing. Furthermore, the United Nation’s flag has a light blue background as it was the colour of peace and hope, also because it is “the opposite of red, the war colour” (United Nation, 1946). This gave definition to the term bluewashing, which is to promote fair trade, human rights, sustainable substance and anti-corruption. Blue represents a colour of continuing development, as its origins lie in its ascendance through social class and artistic use. It has changed in popularity and in implementation in conventional society, and continues to be a colour that embodies careful and considered development.



Basking in its own absoluteness, white presents itself as a colour beyond all others. The emotions presents in the other colours of the spectrum are absent in white, thus the connection between the absence of colours represents the absent extremist nature of the political positions of other colours. White has long established its special significance in Christianity. This is because the Bible has, on multiple occasions, compared Jesus to a white lamb; furthermore, the Gospel of Mark described Jesus wearing clothes that were “shiny, whiter than snow”. These associations were carried on in medieval art, and white became associated with government and higher powers (Zuffi, 2012) especially during periods of theocratic governments. Leon Battista Alberti, a renaissance architect said that churches should be coated with white on the inside because “white was the only appropriate colour for meditation and reflection” (Zuffi, 2012. pg 224.). White thus became to be a colour used in places of contemplation and became embodied in the architectural features


of church builidngs. As religion and state were closely connected during this period civic buildings began to adopt similar colour schemes. This is still relevant today as many government buildings are still built in white, such as the White House and the New Zealand Parliament house. White continues to carry many values beyond its presence in revolutions and politics. According to a recent survery in Europe and America, white is associated with innocence, humility, perfection, honesty, cleanliness, and the new (Heller, 2000). Whereas red presented progressive ideals against traditional conservative value, white is a colour often tied together with virtues and righteousness. This is demonstrated by passivism movements, such as the “white rose� movement in Nazi, Germany, and non-

violent movements such as the White Ribbon, which opposes violent against women. In the New Zealand context, this is resembled in the Parihaka movement: a peaceful protest against unfair land ownership by colonial people (Derby, 2012). The symbol of Parihaka movement is the use of white feather, as a notion of non-violence protest. Parihaka is still recognized in current society in New Zealand, and the white feather is still worn today in remembrance of the tragedy (, n.d.). White in this sense is a colour of conservative values and a symbol of past events. In the revolutionary sense white represents an opposition to change or perceived injustices. This shows common strand of humanitarian virtues and values is a reflection of the credo of the political power groups that adhered to these principles throughout history.



CLUSION Colours are a powerful medium for the display of virtues, values, agendas and common feelings. Revolutions on a grand scale required the transference of ideas, policies and emotions in order to be successful. Colours have accrued their own associations as they have been used across history in a variety of revolutionary and contentious settings. This foundation of historical events and actions lends itself as a principle to consider in graphic design. Within the New Zealand context white, blue and red have all been used for different design decisions. Purposeful graphic design needs to take


into account that colours draw connotations with many different sources, whether or not the purpose or sources of connotations are political in nature. The colours of the New Zealand political parties and movements reflect a design choice informed by previous colour associations. Colour as a tool in a graphic design needs to take into account the contexts and associations that people make with it in order to challenge or encourage different responses from its audience.

Colour remains a powerful design tool in politics and revolutions and the associations of the past have tended to endure into the current day despite varied origins and contexts.





Bomford, B & Roy, A. (2009). A closer look – Colour. National Gallery Company: London. Ghosh, P. (2011). Why Is The Color Red Associated With Communism? Retrieved from Heller, E. (2009). Psychology of colour: effects and symbolism. Paris: Editions Pyramyd. Marean, C.W., Bar-Matthews, M, Bernatchez, J., Fisher, E., Goldberg, P., Herries, A.I.R., Jacobs, Z., Jerardino, A., Karkanas, P.., Minichillo, T., Nilssen, P.J., Thompson, E., Watts, I., Williams, H.W., (2007.) Early Human use of marine resources and pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene. Nature. 449, 905-908. Mark Derby. (13th July, 2012). Conscription, conscientious objection and pacifism - Pacifism, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retireved from http://www.TeAra.govt. nz/en/conscription-conscientious-objection-and-pacifism/ page-3 (n.d.). History of Parihaka. Retrieved from


Pastoureau, M. (1998). The emblems of France. Paris: Bonneton. Postoureau, M. (2001). Blue: The history of a color. Princeton University Press: New Jersy. Time. (4th May, 1970). The East is Red. Retrieved 23rd September, 2013 from magazine/article/0,9171,943793,00.html United Nation. (15th October, 1946). A/107 (1946): Official seal and emblem of the United Nations. Retrieved 1st October, 2013 from Get?Open&DS=A/107&Lang=E Xinhua news. (26th June, 2011). China’s Communist Party members exceed 80 million. Retrieved 23rd September, 2013 from Zuffi, S. (2012). Colour in art. New York: Harry N. Abrams.


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Colours of Revolution