Part of creating a strong brand is choosing the right colors for your logo. The colors that you choose will be associated with your brand, so it is important to choose wisely. Every color has meaning and personality; meaning combinations of color can create specific feelings. Different colors can also be associated with different industries. Choosing the right colors for your logo is essential to making sure your branding is effective, and that your target audience can easily identify with your brand.
Instead of just having a “feel” for different colors, in this article, we are going to be discussing the science and psychology of color. By the end of this article, you will know how to use color theory to choose the perfect colors for your logo.
Why is Color Psychology Crucial to Logo Design?
Color has meaning and association
In a way, different colors impart spirit, context, and meaning to your logo in a way that combines reasoning, art, and culture into a package that is both memorable and eye-catching.
There are certainly also some general guidelines that you can follow when choosing colors for your logo. For example, using multiple colors can make your logo more exciting and dynamic, while using fewer colors can make it appear more refined and professional. However, guidelines serve to mold your choice of colors rather than dictate it. In the end, the best way to choose colors for your logo is to understand the audience you are trying to create the brand logo for and what message you want to send, and then select colors that accurately reflect that message.
Different colors can definitely help set the tone for your brand identity. For example, using warmer colors like red and orange can convey excitement and energy, while cooler colors like blue and green can give off a more calming and serene feeling. Colors can also be used to target specific demographics – for example, baby blue is often used in nursery designs because it is calming and soothing, while brighter colors like yellow and red are more eye-catching and attention-grabbing.
Generally, color combinations and the feelings and emotions they tend to impart are influenced by three things:
People are visual creatures. We tend to judge things based on how they look, and that includes logos. The colors you choose for your logo should be aesthetically pleasing and work well together. However, if that is all there was to it, then every logo would be a colorful mishmash of random hues.
Some color combinations just look good together, while others do not. Some harmonize with each other while others impede each other, some resonate off each other to create an amplification of emotion whereas others clash and turn the customer off, and, finally, some evoke certain feelings while others do not. Different color combinations create different reactions in people, so it is important to understand the message that you want to send with your logo and choose colors that align with that message.
For example, the color red is often associated with passion, anger, or danger. However, it can also represent love, as in the case of a heart. Blue is another color with multiple meanings. It can represent trustworthiness and serenity, or it can create a feeling of sadness. Green is often associated with nature, but it can also be used to represent money or envy.
Context and story:
Think of it like this, if aesthetics were the physical body, then context and story are the life inside the body. An excellent color palette is really easy on the eyes and grabs attention but if it does not have a context to it—a reason why it’s been used—and a brand story—the tone, voice, and brand messaging—then it’s just a mishmash of colors, akin to attractive puppet with no soul—people are only going to give it a look before moving on.
Let’s think of it like this, your color palette is the suit you wear to a job interview, and your context and story is what you say during the interview. Even if you are the best-looking candidate in the room, if you flub the interview, then you are not getting hired. The same goes for logos—aesthetics are eye candy but it’s the context and story that gives it legs.
For your logo to make sense, it needs to take into account who you are as a business, what you do, and what you want to communicate. This isn’t always easy, which is why it’s important to work with a professional designer who can help you distill your brand down to its essence and craft a logo that hits the mark.
Colors also have learned associations that we’ve taken in from years of social conditioning. For example, people think about white when they think about brides in their wedding dresses or black when they think about mourners gathered at a funeral. Some associations are derived from culture, like how in the west, white is often seen as a color of purity, while in many eastern cultures, it is the color of mourning.
Individual color associations :
Aligning your color palette with the associations that your target audience has with certain colors can be a very effective way to communicate the right message.
Let us look at a few colors normally used in logos and their meanings with some examples:
Usually used to convey feelings of passion, energy, excitement, and strength, red is often associated with feelings of heightened emotion. Scientists argue that we can identify the color red more clearly as a result of evolutionary instinct—in that it would allow us to more easily identify fruits. Brands use red in their logos to invoke feelings of anger, passion, youthful exuberance, and love. Red is also seen to stimulate the appetite. Hence, it is no surprise that it is extensively used in the food industry.
Examples: Walmart, Coca-Cola, KFC, Pepsi, Liverpool FC, Manchester United FC, and Red Bull.
Usually associated with feelings of happiness, positivity, and optimism, yellow is often used to cheer people up. It is also seen as a sign of warning—for instance, in traffic lights and signs. In China and some other Asian countries, yellow is the color of royalty and wealth. A diverse color by nature, yellow is used in many cultural associations. It is usually used as part of a subtractive color systems.
Examples: McDonald’s, Ikea, Snapchat, Nikon, and Subway.
Now, gold, while very similar to yellow, has red and brown hues that differentiates it from pure yellow. It also has a very different symbolism. Gold is often associated with imagery of wealth, luxury, and success. It is also seen as a representation of perfect or divine ideals. In many cultures, gold is seen as the color of kings and queens. Therefore, it is used with luxury brands, finance, and fashion-associated companies.
Examples: Chevrolet, Versace, and Warner Bros.
The color green is most commonly associated with nature and peace. Some say green represents life, as seen with forest and all plant life, but at the same time many poisons are green. Historically, green in different shades has alternated between life and death. This presents a sort of versatility, through alterations in hue, shade, tint, and font, that has allowed green to be used by a number of brands, from Gerber baby food, to John Deere equipment, to the Green Bay Packers. It is a reliable color that can be used in a number of ways.
Examples: John Deere, Ninja, Starbucks, Islam, and Android.
The color orange is most associated with energy, vibrancy, and warmth. It is often seen as a cheerful color that can add a touch of fun and excitement to any design. Orange is also known to be a very stimulating color, which can help to increase productivity and focus.
It imbibes the characteristics of its two parent colors, red and yellow. Orange has the vibrancy of red and the carefreeness of yellow. It is also said to promote a sense of excitement, encouragement, and self-confidence. Additionally, orange is a bit harsh on the eyes if not prepared with the right neutral color base. It is also often used by brands that want to stand out as fun and exciting.
Examples: Fanta, Soundcloud, Nickelodeon, and Harley-Davidson.
The color blue is one of most popular, and hence the most common, used in half of all logos. This is because blue symbolizes the characteristics of water and of the sea—everchanging, majestic, meek, tranquility, and flow—and thereby imparts feelings of intelligence, professionalism, and maturity.
Blue imparts confidence and stability in itself. Along with different shades and tints, there are so many variations that most organizations prefer to imbibe a bit of blue in their logo.
Examples: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, and Intel.
The color purple is most commonly associated with royalty and wealth. It is also seen as a very luxurious color. Purple is often used to represent power, ambition, and success. Now, while purple might denote luxury, it also imparts playfulness.
Examples: Cadbury, Lego, MTV, Yahoo!, and Hallmark.
The color black is the express color that symbolizes authority and power. It’s seen as a very strong and commanding color. Black also imparts a sense of sophistication and sleekness. Black exudes simplicity and efficiency. Some of the top brands in the world use black in their logos. What black lacks in color, it more than makes up for in power and sophistication. Fashion brands in particular favor black in their logos. It is seen as a very sleek and elegant color.
Examples: Apple, Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Gucci.
The color white is most commonly associated with purity and innocence. In the business world, white is seen as being professional and clean. White is also associated with simplicity and minimalism. Many high-end fashion brands use white in their logos to convey a sense of sophistication and exclusivity.
White allows for other colors to really stand out and be seen. Because of this, white is often used as an accent color in logos and branding.
Examples: Chanel, Dior, and Louis Vuitton.
Gray is a color that is often seen as being serious and formal. It is a popular choice for business logos as it conveys a sense of authority and expertise. Gray can also be seen as being stable and reliable.
Gray is a popular color in web design as it can be used to create a clean and modern look. It is often used as a background color or for typography.
Examples: Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Pink is often seen as being a feminine color. It is associated with romance, love, and beauty. Pink can also be seen as being delicate and soft. However, pink can also be seen as being playful and fun. Brands that have pink in the logo often want to convey a sense of playfulness and fun.
Culture wise, pink has a significance—Japanese people see the color as being youthful and vibrant because it welcomes Spring, while in China, pink is associated with feminine values such as beauty and romance.
Examples: Victoria’s Secret and Barbie.
How to choose a logo color?
When choosing colors for your logo, it is important to keep in mind that certain colors can be associated with different meanings. It is important to choose colors that are in line with the message you want to convey with your brand.
How to combine colors?
While focusing on a singular color to represent the brand personality makes sense, it’s also important to consider how colors can be combined to create a more impactful and cohesive look.
When choosing colors for your brand, the color wheel presents an interesting argument for colors that work well together.
Just like the adage “Opposites attract,” colors opposite each other on the color wheel are considered complementary. Usually, two colors from opposite sides of the wheel will make for a strong combination because they provide good contrast.
For example, blue and orange are complementary colors that can be used together to make a bold statement like with the FedEx logo.
Source : elledecor
These are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Analogous color combinations are usually more subdued than complementary ones, but can still be quite striking.
For example, green and yellow-green could be used together in an analogous color
This coloring scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. A triadic color scheme is often very bold, but can be tricky to use because the colors can clash if they are not well-balanced.
For example, a blue, yellow, and red color scheme could be used in a patriotic design or a yellow, purple, and green color scheme could be used in a nature-themed design.
A split complementary color scheme is similar to a complementary one, but instead of using two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, it uses a base color and combines that with two colors that are adjacent to its complementary color. This creates a more nuanced color scheme that can be easier to work with than a complementary one.
For example, if you have a green dress and want to find complementary colors for it, you could use a purple, blue, and pink color scheme.
A tetradic color scheme uses four colors that are arranged into two complementary pairs. This can be a challenging color scheme to work with, but it can also create some beautiful results.
For example, you could use a yellow, green, blue, and purple color scheme. Or, you could use a red, orange, green, and blue color scheme.
Mixing Hues with Tints and Shades
Rarely do you find anyone using just the pure form of any color. Any given color can have thousands of variations of itself, not to mention its combinations with different colors. This is due to the fact that colors can be lightened or darkened with either white (known as a tint) or black (known as a shade).
Here are a few examples:
- Pink is a lightened red.
- Peach is a lightened orange.
- Lavender is a lightened purple.
- Navy blue is a darkened blue.
- Brown is a darkened orange.
You can see how lightening or darkening a color can give it an entirely different feel. As you continue to mix hues with tints and shades, you’ll find an infinite number of color possibilities at your fingertips. Tints and shades can also allow you to create new combinations by making associations which may not have been the best when in their pure form. It’s like when rhyming words, you annunciate certain words which you wouldn’t have if you were just saying them normally. This is the same with lightening or darkening of colors, it changes your perception of the color when mixed with others, which can create some really unique and beautiful color schemes for your website or project.
How to choose your colors?
Historically, the best logos have always been simple. However, finding the perfect colors for your logo needs a bit of consideration:
How do you want your brand to be perceived? Do you want it to be seen as trustworthy and established or fresh and innovative? The colors you choose will play a big role in conveying the right message about your brand. For example, blue is often associated with trustworthiness and intelligence, while green is often associated with nature and growth.
Research shows that certain colors can also affect a person’s mood. For example, yellow is often associated with happiness and energy, while purple is often associated with royalty and luxury.
The emotions you are trying to evoke is a premier guiding factor in choosing your brand colors. Consider what feeling you want your customers or clients to experience when they see your brand. Do you want them to feel happy, confident, excited, or calm?
Once you’ve decided on the emotions you want to evoke, you can begin narrowing down your color options. If you’re unsure of which colors will work best for your brand, consider consulting with a professional designer. They will be able to help you choose colors that accurately reflect your brand identity and message.
Are there any specific colors that are commonly used in your industry? For example, in the medical field, blue is often used because it symbolizes trustworthiness. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you may want to choose a different color.
People subconsciously associate certain companies with certain specific colors. Upon repeated reinforcement, these colors become linked with the industry or field itself. Inevitably, if your brand wants to become a part of that industry, you will need to adopt those colors. Different colors are accepted and are prominent across industries due to the target audience in that niche. However, if you want to use colors to make a statement or grab attention, then choosing an uncommon color for your industry might be the way to go.
The colors you use should also be appropriate for the culture you are targeting. Colors vary in significance across cultures and if you intend to be an international brand, then you will need to take this into account. For example, white is a color of purity in Western cultures, but in Eastern cultures it is often associated with death. In some cultures, red is a very auspicious color and is often used for special occasions. In other cultures, white is associated with purity and is often used in weddings. A little foresight and cultural sensitivity can go a long way in making sure your colors are well-received.
When it comes to color, less is often more. It is generally best to choose one or two colors as your main brand colors and use them consistently across all of your marketing materials. You can always add accent colors as needed, but try not to go overboard.
In conclusion, understanding color psychology can help you more effectively market your products or services to different cultures. A little research and cultural sensitivity can go a long way in making sure your colors are well-received. Try to stay away from using too many colors, and be aware of the different meaning’s colors have in different cultures. With this knowledge, you can create a more effective and culturally-sensitive marketing campaign. Thanks for reading!
Our designers at Pixel Street can help you create a logo that can be easily modified to account for different color preferences. Contact us today to learn more!