Would you rather have a pink or a blue logo for your bank? Would you choose a gray or a green brand color for your health practice?
Colors have their connotations. People associate specific colors with particular feelings. If anything, when judging a business or a brand, the first thing that we notice is the color combinations.
That’s why business owners must choose the right colors for their brand: they need people to understand what their business is through the chosen colors. They also want their logo to be recognizable and easily noticeable.
What do colors mean?
Both psychologists and marketing experts agree that colors carry special meaning in people’s subconscious. Use colors smartly to highlight your company’s line of work.
Due to its use in traffic signs and its association with blood and passion, red demands people’s attention and is often associated with a sense of urgency.
Call-to-action buttons and sales buttons are often red because they present shoppers with a sense of urgency: if you don’t press the button now, the offer will be lost.
A good example of red in a logo is Red Bull, which demands our attention with its logo. Red Bull being an energy drink, it uses red to remind us of the strength, excitement, and energy involved when drinking Red Bull.
Energy may not be the sole reason why a business may use red in its logo, of course. For example, Heinz’s use of red in its logo readily brings to mind its flagship product, tomato ketchup.
Orange has a lot of red in it, so brands often use it in place of red. However, it also has a strong association with food and is considered particularly appetizing. No wonder, then, that many restaurants use orange on their walls to help customers feel hungry.
Orange is also linked with communication, so restaurants also use shades of orange on the walls to increase the time customers spend over their meals.
Another common association is with the autumn season, thanks to the color of pumpkins and falling leaves. Since autumn is a transitional season, orange also signifies transitional situations and change.
Yellow is a happy color that conveys warmth and cheerfulness. It’s also the color of optimism, adventure, excitement, and vitality. Use it to grab people’s attention—but only sparingly, as too much yellow can strain the eyes. Even a touch of yellow can be seen from afar and catches the eye.
Hertz, DHL, and National Geographic use yellow in their logos to add a cheerful note to their brand. Lipton tea has a large yellow background, creating an association with the warmth its tea provides.
Green is associated with health, tranquility, nature, and relaxation. Many that are environmentally friendly organizations choose green to define their brand, as do companies that have to do with earth. Think of Whole Foods and John Deere: while widely different, both of them are somehow connected to earth and nature. The green in their logo brings out that fact.
Blue is the color of peace, water, reliability, and tranquility. It is also the most common color used in logos and brands. Blue suggests intelligence, communication, and trust. Many large companies use blue in their brand because of the sense of authority, security, and power it suggests.
Many tech firms use blue, including IBM, Dell, and Skype. Blue is also used by social media businesses such as Facebook and Twitter. JP Morgan has chosen blue for the feeling of reliability and security it conveys.
Purple is strongly associated with royalty. A rich, deep color, it conveys a sense of luxury and comfort. Many think it can uplift your spirits and calm your body. In hotels, it combines sensuality and passion, as it’s made up of red and blue.
Purple shades are also common where inspiration and imagination are required, as well as in spiritual settings.
Its luxurious connotations are why purple has largely become synonymous with chocolate, as demonstrated by Cadbury Milka, Hershey’s, Reece’s, and Nestle, among others.
Widely associated with our feminine side, pink conjures innocence and fragility. It’s a romantic and soft color. No wonder that the Barbie brand is focused around pink!
Cosmopolitan uses pink in its logo as does Victoria’s Secret, both tuning in to their female audience.
Brown is the least used color in branding. It is associated with nature (think of wood) and displays calmness and earthiness. Because of our mental association of brown with wood, its use instinctively reveals feelings of stability, sturdiness, and seriousness.
Logging firms and wood-oriented companies use brown in their logo, while UPS uses brown to show its dependability and soundness.
Black is synonymous with authority, power, strength, stability, and sophistication. It is also the color of elegance and luxury and adds a touch of mystery to brands and logos.
Many upmarket brands such as Hermes, Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton use black in their logo to show their exclusivity and luxury and to make them stand out from other high-street brands.
White is the color of purity and cleanliness. It displays safety and sparks creativity: think of a blank page giving you ample space to innovate and create. It also gives feelings of simplicity and truthfulness.
Many brands use white in a negative space to bring out the rest of the colors they use. WWF uses a black and white panda, playing with the contrast between the two colors. Also, the use of white emphasizes its message that it’s a clean and honest business trying to save animals and the planet.
Tesla uses a white logo on a red background: the white brings out the solidity and honesty of the brand while the red reminds us of the energy and passion of Tesla cars.
Similarly, The North Face uses a white logo on a red background, again combining the safety and cleanliness of white with the energy and strength of red.
Gray is perceived as a neutral color that shows practicality, solidarity, and elegance. Many brands combine gray with another color because it works well with almost any other color. Gray is a grounding color that conveys respect and somberness.
Carmakers like Honda and Mercedes use silver-hued grays to show their reliability and practicality while creating an upmarket image.
Mixing colors in your brand
Although many brands use a single color for their logo, many companies choose a combination of two or more colors.
When using two colors, businesses often choose two contrasting colors that create an eye-catching effect. Ikea uses blue and yellow in its logo: yellow immediately catches customers’ attention and blue conveys feelings of reliability and trust.
Here are some tips for those who wish to use more than one color in their logo:
Choose a primary color
When choosing colors for your brand, you should have a base color that reflects your brand’s personality, line of work, main message, and leading feature.
Choose a secondary color
Once you have chosen a base color, you can pick a complementary accent color. Your accent color should match the base one and bring it out. You also need it to convey its own message and emphasize your brand’s personality.
You can opt for analogous color schemes. Choose a primary color and then pick variants of this, such as red and yellow, yellow and orange, or red and orange.
You can also choose monochromatic color schemes by picking a primary color and then adding lighter and darker versions of it.
Or you can go for contrasting color schemes by choosing colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Blue and orange or red and green are contrasting colors that pop out and grab people’s attention.
How do I choose my brand colors?
Think of your brand
Consider your brand and think about what it means. What sort of feelings would you like your customers or clients to experience when they use your products or services?
Write down a list of adjectives and feelings that you want people to associate with your brand and business. Focus on adjectives such as warm, earthy, friendly, trustworthy, reliable, adventurous, creative, refined, heart-warming, etc.
Try to understand where your business stands. A tech startup geared toward saving the planet will convey very different feelings than a tech startup with an app for bankers and financiers.
Lay out the specifics
Once you have understood the feelings your brand should create, consider your business and industry.
If you have an ice-cream or donut parlor you may opt for warm, appetizing colors such as pink or orange. But if you are into healthy eating, perhaps green better conveys your message.
There are no industry-specific colors that you should follow. Obviously, some colors are better associated with particular industries and businesses, but even within industries, you need to establish where your business stands and what message it’s promoting.
Don’t choose your favorite colors
Although we all have a favorite color, it doesn’t mean you should use yours in your brand. If you love red but own an environmentally friendly NGO, you may prefer to use green in your logo. It’s always best to go for something that appeals to your customers and reflects on your business.
Don’t choose the colors of your competitor
Your competitors will have chosen a particular color combination that works for them. However, try to distinguish yourself from them by choosing something different.
Firstly, because customers will get confused if they see similar colors in different brands. Secondly, because creating your own brand gives you artistic freedom to design something that accurately captures your uniqueness.
Consider your colors carefully if you plan on doing business worldwide
Different cultures view colors differently, depending on their history, culture, and natural environment. White may be the color of purity and cleanliness to us, but it is associated with death in several Asian countries.
If you’re an international company, you may wish to ensure that your color combination does not convey the wrong message to particular cultures.
Colors come in and out of fashion
Just like clothes and design, colors come in and out of fashion. Flashy colors were very fashionable in the 70s—just think of Star Trek uniforms—and pastel ones were widely used in the 50s. The 2010s had more subdued and polished colors like silver and wood color.
Although you can’t change your brand’s colors every decade, it’s good to remember what color shades are fashionable. Ideally, you need to bring your brand colors as closely to your era as possible while remaining timeless.
Colors have their psychological effect and people have associated colors with particular feelings and emotions for centuries. Although some colors are strongly correlated with particular industries and businesses, more and more brands are trying new combinations to distinguish themselves from their competitors.
Keeping in mind some basic understanding of color psychology will help you establish your brand color scheme and give you a logo, website, shop front, or signage that will stand out from the competition and give your brand an edge.