There are dozens of articles about what the colors of the rainbow symbolize and how well they can be used in graphic designs, and guess what? I will do the same in this article, but like all the different colors of a rainbow, this article will be different, I promise. But first, let me pay my tribute to the legendary Hawaiian singer Kamakawiwo’ole through his famous song, Somewhere over the Rainbow.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dream of
Once in a lullaby, oh…
Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” has gained more popularity than the original one, especially after the Hawaiian singer-songwriter and activist passed away. Here is the legendary Hawaiian independence activist’s version:
Rainbows: they have always fascinated us. They have always captured our imagination along with transporting us to a world, which is colorful, beautiful, and serene. But why does the rainbow make us feel happy? Well, there definitely is some kind of science at work, which I will explain later in the article, but for now, let us close our eyes for a few seconds and imagine the colorful arc in a clear blue sky while the gentle winds kiss our face!
7 Colors of Rainbow
What are the colors of the rainbow? Is there a certain order? Yes, they do have a certain order. Here are the colors of the rainbow in order:
Why Does The Rainbow Make Us Feel Happy?
Rainbows, as we already know, are made of colors. Colors, according to certain case studies, have the power to influence human behavior.
It may come to you as a surprise that very little scientific research has been conducted on the psychological effects of color on the human mind, despite it being a hot topic in design, marketing, arts, and literature.
An article published on verywellmind suggests that “feelings about color” are mostly “rooted in your own experience and culture.” The article further mentions the following: “Given the prevalence of color, one would expect color psychology to be a well-developed area,’ researchers Andrew Elliot and Markus Maier have noted. ‘ surprisingly, little theoretical or empirical work has been conducted to date on color’s influence on psychological functioning, and the work that has been done has been driven mostly by practical concerns, not by scientific rigor.”
But, say this to a designer or a marketer, he would never nod his head in agreement. Despite the lack of scientific evidence, cultures all across the world believe and understand how colors can influence emotions.
The seven colors of the rainbow affect the mind positively and trigger happy feelings. Here’s what the seven colors of the rainbow depict.
- Red: The color of love, passion, health, life, and vigor, red stands for everything connected to a person’s well-being.
- Orange: The second color of the rainbow is connected to creativity, fertility, and sexuality. The color also symbolizes inner healing.
- Yellow: The color symbolizes happiness, youthful energy, joy, happiness, imagination, positivity, warmth, and sun.
- Green: Associated with nature, green symbolizes renewal, growth, and rebirth. The color also represents prosperity and motherhood.
- Blue: The fifth color of the rainbow represents peace, wisdom, loyalty, spirituality, intuition, sincerity, and stability.
- Indigo: The color is associated with higher knowledge, wisdom, and independence. Indigo also suggests impartiality and equality.
- Violet: The last color of the rainbow stands for calmness, gentleness, luxury, wisdom, royalty, and spirituality.
Rainbow Symbolism (What Do Rainbows Symbolize?)
Apart from the above, rainbows have been attached with many unique meanings. In this section, we will explore the symbolism of rainbows.
Many see the rainbow as a sign of a fresh start. The appearance of a rainbow is regarded as a sign of a new beginning, especially after a tragic or a dark time in a person’s life. The rainbow is also seen as a relief after a disastrous weather storm.
The rainbow is a commonly used symbol of hope. After days and nights of stormy and bad weather, a rainbow may appear in the sky. The appearance of so many colors after darkness makes one joyous. The light after darkness sends the message of hope and a better tomorrow. So, when you feel hopeless and tired the next time, think of a beautiful rainbow!
Rainbow as a symbol of promise originates from the Bible. According to the holy book, God flooded the earth to wash it clean of evil and sin. After the great flood, Noah stepped out of the arc to see a beautiful rainbow. The rainbow stood as God’s promise of no more floods. Rainbow is a symbol of a better future and a promise from the heavens to keep mankind safe!
Calm and Peace
The appearance of a rainbow, just after a turbulent storm, is accompanied by the feeling of peace and tranquility. The feeling of peace gives man the hope and the strength to rebuild everything that was lost as a result of the storm.
The appearance of a rainbow upon a person’s death signifies that the departed soul is at peace.
The appearance of a rainbow is considered to be a sign of good luck by many cultures throughout the world. According to Irish mythology, the appearance of a rainbow signifies hidden treasure.
According to various folklores, the elves hid their gold treasures at the end of a rainbow. Anyone who found these treasures were allowed to keep a portion of the wealth, which is why rainbows are associated with good fortune.
Apart from the above, rainbows are symbolic of death and transition. According to various Buddhist schools of thought, a person who lived a spiritual life on earth receives a rainbow body in the afterlife. The rainbow body symbolizes a person’s journey towards God. According to many cultures around the world, rainbows were seen as a bridge between the soul and God.
In Norse and Greek mythology, rainbows held an important position as they were thought to be secret pathways to various worlds and alternate realities. Rainbows were considered to be portals that helped one travel to unseen worlds.
Iris, the goddess of the rainbow in Greek mythology, was the messenger of gods. She is generally depicted with a rainbow or a pitcher in her hands.
The rainbow unifies seven colors to represent unity and equality. While the seven different colors are distinctly visible in a rainbow, the beauty of the colorful arc lies in the unification of the colors. In the modern world, the rainbow is used to represent different social movements and protests.
Rainbows in Art
Rainbows have always influenced and inspired art since the existence of civilization. It comes as no surprise that the colorful arc made its way into various religious depictions in the form of paintings.
The Biblical depiction of the great flood, which ends with a rainbow as God’s covenant with Noah that there would be no more floods, has been re-imagined hundreds of thousands of times through paintings.
In modern visual art, rainbows have been used to depict happiness, festivities, and cheerfulness. Rainbows have been beautifully used by contemporary artists such as Peter Coffin and Ugo Rondinone to depict many different things.
Rainbows in Literature
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!…
The above lines are from the poem “My Heart Leaps Up” by Wordsworth. The poem is a great example of how rainbows can depict varied emotions in poetry. Newton’s discovery of the visible spectrum of a rainbow is said to have provoked John Keats to write his famous poetry “Lamia.” He wrote:
Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things…”
Rainbows in Music
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the rainbow? Well, I am sure it is the famous rock band Rainbow. Legendary rock vocalist Ronnie James Dio and the amazing guitarist Ritchie Blackmore created some memorable songs like Rainbow in the Dark and Rainbow Eyes. Here is a famous Rainbow song Catch the Rainbow:
Singer-songwriter Kesha released her music album titled Rainbow in 2017. The album included a song called rainbow.
Singers and musicians have been inspired by the rainbow to create some memorable music. Apart from their presence in music, Rainbows have played an important role in films. Films such as A Shine of Rainbows and Marianne have beautifully depicted rainbows to portray multi-layered meanings.
Symbol for LGBT Pride
The rainbow flag or the pride flag is the symbol of gay pride. The rainbow flag represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and queer pride movement.
The rainbow colors represent two interesting aspects of sexuality; first, the diversity within the LGBT community, and second, the “scale” of human sexuality.
American gay rights activist, artist, and designer Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in 1978.
The rainbow flag colors are used in various products such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, and badges to show support for the LGBT community.
T-shirts and quotes have a long history together. The LGBT community has used t-shirts not only to display the rainbow flags but various slogans.
From it being painted on the church ceiling to its use in the LGBT flag, the rainbow has been an inspiration for many. Artists throughout the ages have been drawn to the rainbow and have let their imaginations fly.
Rainbows have played an influential role in the graphic design industry as well. While it is true that rainbow colors inspire graphic designers to create original artworks, it is extremely challenging to work with the colorful arc because of its diverse range. Let’s explore the 14 best ways you can use the beautiful colors of the rainbow in your designs.
1. Play with neutral tones
So, what are neutral tones? Well, the neutral colors are beige, blacks, and whites. You can achieve some amazing visual effects by combining neutral colors with rainbow-influenced colors. The rainbow colors balance the neutral colors providing a magical touch to the design. Graphic designers tend to use the effect in dark designs to give it a special hypnotic charm.
2. Remove some of the rainbow’s colors
The rainbow is one of the most popular symbols and is widely used to depict positive emotions. The rainbow symbol remains recognizable even if half the colors are removed. If you choose to play with only three colors of the rainbow, then contrast and the context becomes extremely useful. Following the triadic color scheme would enable you to put some variety into your design.
3. Design a rainbow gradient
Adding a gradient to your rainbow will ensure that you enhance the celestial look of the colorful arc. The natural rainbow does not have fine lines dividing each color but is stitched together with mist and light. A gradient will allow you to mimic the natural rainbow providing it an ethereal look.
4. Place the colors as you want
As an artist, you have the license to use the colors of the rainbow and place them any way you want, as long as all the colors of the rainbow are present in your design. It may seem that applying such techniques may reduce the rainbow’s impact on the design, but when all the elements of the composition are viewed together, the design takes a whole new dimension.
5. Add some texture to the rainbow
Adding texture will enhance the visual impact and separate your design from the crowd. 3D shading, strokes, or mosaic tiles will keep your rainbow from looking flat. While the natural rainbow is full of vibrancy and texture, the same is often lost while integrating a rainbow into a design; therefore, adding texture would provide the much-needed depth to your design.
6. Make a rainbow accent
Are you looking to exhibit the rainbow side of your design without compromising on the other interesting elements of your creative work? Creative artists have come up with an amazing solution for you: make a rainbow accent! Creating a rainbow accent will enable you to strategically place your rainbow in some parts of the design while complimenting other aspects of your design.
7. Reshape the rainbow
Rainbows are usually portrayed in horizontal bars or semi arcs. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you want to design using the conventional methods of depicting the rainbow, but giving it other shapes could be a great idea. You can choose an abstract shape or some unconventional motif to pour the colors of the rainbow.
8. Use latest design trends
Creativity is all about experimenting and exploring; therefore, one should always strive to experiment. Experimenting with the latest design trends could prove beneficial if you are trying to create something new and unique.
While the latest trends and fads change very quickly, they can create a powerful impact depending on the context. Design trends such as retro-futurism, minimalism, and glass morphism will allow you to experiment with rainbow colors.
9. Replace the colors
This may sound a bit odd, but replacing the colors of the rainbow could be a refreshing change. However, you must be careful when replacing the colors. As a designer, you must keep at least one element of the rainbow intact while redesigning the colorful arc. If you decide to change the colors, then keeping the shape of the rainbow intact could be a good idea.
10. Rainbow Vs. Dark
Rainbows are great to look at, but it can be equally difficult for a designer to translate the same on paper. Rainbows can be tough for a designer due to the contrast. However, dark backgrounds can solve the problem. Bright colors jump off a black background and make them look hypnotic.
11. Rainbow animation
Why think static when you have the power of animation? Be it logo designs or your website landing page, animation can take your designs to the next level. An animated rainbow can speak a thousand words and give you the desired engagement.
12. Colors as a focal point
Rainbow colors can be used to draw the attention of the consumers; however, they can turn disastrous if not used the right way. As a designer, it is imperative that you understand what attracts the consumers and what can turn them away. In the 1990s and a good part of the 2000s, a chunk of websites used bright rainbow colors, which were splashed everywhere. Those are the kind of designs that a designer must avoid.
13. Highlight something unique
The idea behind most creative work is to stand apart from the crowd. As a business owner or a designer, you want the brand to be visible. Rainbow colors are a gift of nature, which can be used in many different ways. You can use the power of the rainbow colors to highlight something different or unique.
14. Go crazy with rainbow colors
Most of the tips above deal with softening the rainbow so that it can be integrated with various design projects. However, the rainbow’s best feature is its unapologetic boldness. Sometimes, dropping the rainbow bomb in your design is the best thing you can do. Methods discussed above – such as texture, depth, and balance – will help you go wild while exploring the flamboyant rainbow.
The rainbow can be anything you want it to be. You can interpret the rainbow in hundreds of thousands of ways. The vibrancy that the colorful arc can bring to a graphic design is unimaginable. While it is true that working with rainbow colors can be a daunting task for a designer, it can produce next-level artwork.
Head of Design at DesignBro and is responsible for UI/UX Design, managing the global designer community, and ensuring quality levels of both designers and designs remain high.