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Logo Color Theory For Business
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Friday, May 06, 2016
By Holly H
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Color theory! It's a science in itself. And using the "right" colors for your brand goes far in setting the tone for your company and influencing how customers perceive you. 

 

Are you stable, corporate, and trustworthy? Or are you cute & quirky? Imagine if Coca-Cola was green. Would we get the same feeling from a purple Nike swoosh? Probably not.

 

Quick! What color is Target? Red, and they behave like you would expect a "Red" brand would. With energy, power, and lust for life.

 

Each time my toddler gleefully demands "Old MacDonalds" upon spotting those cheery yellow arches, I think about how children can identify logo shapes and color before they can read.

 

Ah, McDonald's, hitting it out of the park with their classic "Red + Yellow = Hunger" color combo that includes a clear subconscious callback to their signature golden, delicious french fries.

 

Plus, "Yellow = Joyous," which is exactly how I imagine my toddler feels when he's happily cramming fistfuls of french fried potatoes between the seats of my car. But I digress.

 

What do your logo colors say about your brand?

Passion, Strength, Love, Boldness

Red commands attention, inspires action and boldness. The color red has been shown to have a palpable physical effect on its viewers – raising blood pressure, respiration, and metabolism, as well. 

 

Red speaks of importance and prestige. Think of red carpets and red-soled Louboutin shoes.

 

Red can also cue danger, but outside the western world, red can have different associations. In China, for instance, red is the color of prosperity, happiness, and good luck.

 

Red is a powerful, passionate color that is versatile throughout its many shades. Brighter reds are energetic, while darker tones are more elegant.

 

Notable examples: Coca-Cola, Target, Red Bull

 

Trust, Responsibility, Security, Stability

Blue is a popular color in logo design, signaling authority, success and security. 

 

This perhaps explains its near universal use in medical, technology, government, and fortune 500 companies. 

 

Light blues are calming and refreshing, while darker blues speak to reliability and strength.

 

But beyond subconscious association, many people choose Blue because it is simply a popular color! Friendly and welcoming, it's hard to go wrong with Blue!

 

Notable examples: IBM, Dell, HP, Ford

 

Happiness, Optimism, Warmth, Sunshine

Yellow is a cheerful, curious color. It symbolizes playful energy, positivity, and warmth. Brands that want to interject youth, optimism, and fun into their brand often use this sunshiney color in whole or in part.

 

Yellow is playful and positive, but can sometimes cue caution. Yellow is one of the most visible colors, and is bright and unserious.

 

Some studies indicate that the colors Yellow and Red in combination may signal hunger in its viewers – a theory that's surely welcomed by Denny's and McDonald's!

 

Notable examples: Nikon, Sprint, McDonald's, Denny's

 

Health, Growth, Prosperity, Nature

Green is earthy and down-to-earth. It represents growth, health, abundance, and nature.

 

Green is calming color like Blue, but incorporates some of Yellow's energy to become more revitalizing and renewing – especially in its brighter shades.

 

Green is also stable, and is often used in the context of wealth and money. Companies who want to promote a strong association with nature and conservation will also be found adorned in Green.

 

Notable examples: BP, John Deere, PhotoBiz :)

 

Energetic, Friendly, Confident, Playful 

Combining powerful Red with curious Yellow, Orange blends attributes of both into a zesty, punchy mix of energetic playfulness.

 

More youthful than Red, and more intense than Yellow, Orange commands attention without being overpowering or too serious. 

 

Notable examples: Nickelodeon, Fanta, Harley Davidson, Shutterfly

 

Nurturing, Creativity, Love, Sensitivity

A lighter shade of Red, Pink retains much of the power, but is softened and calmed by the addition of white. Pink is nurturing, warm, loving, and stable.

 

Pink can be creative and intuitive, as well as sweet or flirty in context. Victoria's Secret has used their "Pink" campaign and pink logos well in their marketspace.

 

In addition to being seen as somewhat "feminine," Pink is also brave, modern, and very in fashion – especially deep, bright shades of pink and magenta.

 

Notable examples: Victoria's Secret, Barbie, Taco Bell

 

Royalty, Luxury, Wisdom, Imagination

A mixture of powerful Red and responsible Blue, Purple is the color of royalty, signaling luxury, decadence, high status, and wisdom.

 

Purple is also an imaginative and creative color, associated with higher education, religion, ceremony, and and fantasy.

 

Purple isn't found in the logos of  too many consumer goods companies – except it is common among chocolate manufacturers. Go figure!

 

Notable examples: Hallmark, Yahoo, Cadbury, Wonka

 

Intelligence, Utility, Richness, Durability

Brown is sophisticated, but it doesn’t brag. It implies quality and durability. Brown has been around the block and stood the test of time. Brown is steeped in tradition and values. Brown is stable, dependable, and strong.

 

Brown is also studious, industrious, and reliable. It speaks of wood, coffee, chocolate and leather. 


Brown is masculine, rugged, naturalistic, and athletic. Its darker tones can be used as an alternative or a replacement for black. 

 

Notable examples: UPS, Godiva

Calm, Precision, Elegance, Luxury

The "neutral" colors are refined, pure and serious. They speak of balance, formality, and precision – we expect companies with neutral logos to run like well-oiled machines and produce superior products.

 

Black conjures authority, boldness, and tradition, while white leans on the side of elegance, simplicity, and clarity.

 

Grey holds the balance between, drawing from both power and simplicity to become a moderating force.

 

Notable examples: Apple, Nike, Wikipedia