How to Choose Colors for Your Logo

How to Choose Colors for Your Logo

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If you want to open a business or found a start-up, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is :

The color of your logo is one of the key aspects of the branding and marketing of your company. But why?

1. 90% of the information that is processed by the brain is visual.

2. It takes 13 milliseconds for a human brain to process an image.

3. The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.

4. 80% of people remember what they see. They only remember up to ten percent of what they hear and about 20 percent of what they read.

5. Researchers estimate that most humans can see around one million different colors. This shows the astounding development of human visual perception.

The first thing that people might recall about your brand is likely the logo. That is why you have to make a considerable effort to choose the appropriate color for your logo.

Color creates a very important first impression and certain associations with your target customer. Brand colors will help your future customers decide if they want to make use of your services or buy your product. It is the first thing they will see and the first impression they will get. The color you will choose for your logo will say more about your brand than you might initially think.

Image Source: iStock
Never underestimate the power of color on the visual senses of human beings.

A study titled, “Impact of color on marketing,” by Satyendra Singh concluded that up to 90% of impulsive judgments made about products are made based on the color choice of a logo alone.

Color helps humans to process and store images better than images in black and white.

Studies have shown that a black and white image can keep up the attention for less than two-thirds of a second. On the contrary, an image in color could sustain the attention of the participants of the study for two seconds or sometimes even longer.

“Using a colored logo increases the recognition of your brand by up to 80%.”
– Ragan, 2015

Color catches attention and provokes a response. An American insurance company used color to accentuate the main information on their invoices. The results were astounding, the customers paid their invoices an average of two weeks earlier.

“When people make a subconscious judgment about a product, 60% to 90% of that evaluation is based on color alone.”
– Singh, 2006

Colors evoke emotions and transmit emotions. This causes the potential customer to form an initial response without even knowing anything about your product or the service that you have to offer.

“It is probably the expressive qualities (primarily of color but also of shape) that spontaneously affect the passively receiving mind, whereas the tectonic structure of pattern (characteristic of shape, but found also in color) engages the actively organizing mind.”
Image Source: Vengage.com

The Impact of Color Psychology

Before you make your decision on which color (or colors) to choose for your logo, you have to understand the impact and psychological associations of color, a discipline called Color Psychology.

Color Psychology is the field of study that analyzes how color influences recognition and action. Its focus lies on how certain colors influence the impression the customer forms of your brand and if they will decide to make a purchase or use your offered services.

First, you have to define your target customer, the field of service or product that you want to offer, and the message you want to convey with the color of your logo. Your logo and its colors tell your customers everything about your brand without you saying or writing a single word.

The correct color will appeal automatically to your target customer.

Before choosing a color for your logo, you may ask yourself these questions:

  • Tone: Is my brand playful or serious?
  • Values: Is my brand luxurious or affordable?
  • Time: Is my brand modern or classic?
  • Age: Is my brand youthful or more suited for mature audiences?
  • Gender: Is my brand rather masculine, feminine, or unisex?
  • Energy: Is my brand boisterous or more reserved?
  • Industry: To which industry does my company belong?

Every color is associated with a certain psychological meaning. But it has to be mentioned that there might be cultural differences in how a color might be perceived.

If you want to pick a color for the logo of an international company, you have to pay attention to the fact that certain colors might be perceived differently in certain cultures. For example, in Western culture, white is viewed as a symbol of virtue and purity, whereas it is associated with death in some Eastern countries. Another poignant example is that the color red is associated in India with innocence and joyousness, but in Africa, it is associated with aggression and death.  

The Colors and Their Symbolism:

The Color White

White is associated with purity, cleanliness, simplicity, innocence, and freshness. It’s a neutral color that is very often used as a background to highlight the other colors. White is often used in industries like wellness, tech, medicine, and luxury products.

The Color Black

Black is considered a sophisticated, elegant, and serious color that symbolizes power, intelligence, and luxury. This color is commonly used as a background or for monochrome logos. If not used correctly, it can be associated with negative concepts such as sadness and even death. Black is frequently used in industries like fashion, finance, automotive, and luxury brands.

The Color Gray

Gray typically evokes feelings of professionalism, stability, and credibility, and is associated with technology. It’s a practical and neutral color, mostly used as an accent color or a background color. It is associated with calmness, neutrality, maturity, and professionalism. Gray is suitable for tech, legal and financial industries.

The Color Blue

A blue logo represents tranquility, trust, and stability. Different tones of blue, such as navy blue and light blue, are among the best colors to go for if you want to evoke a feeling of trust. It’s the most popular logo color used for Fortune's list of 500 companies. Besides, this color is one of the favorite colors of both men and women. Blue is the color of the sea and the sky. Blue exudes a sense of trustworthiness, calmness, stability, and competence.

Blue is optimal for communication, hi-tech, computer products, water industry, health, wellness, travel industry, and political and religious organizations.

The Color Red

Red is associated with danger, excitement, and energy. It’s also known for being the color of love and passion. Red is passion, power, youthfulness, energy, and confidence. Red is dynamic and is one of the best color choices if you want to evoke strong emotions, attract attention, and create a feeling of urgency. Food industry companies use this color because it increases appetite. For all those reasons, red is the second-most popular brand color. It is immediately noticeable from a distance and is memorable.

The Color Pink

Pink evokes feelings of love, compassion, and warmth. Brighter pinks are especially advantageous for female teen target customers. Pink is optimal for the women and girls industry, charities, and businesses that are marketing sentimental products.

The Color Green

Green is associated with growth, health, and nature. The green logo design mostly implies that your company is eco-friendly, and your products are organic and fresh. Sometimes, green can refer to money and be used for the logo design of financial companies. Green is a good choice for food companies, eco-friendly brands, or startups, as well as brands that are oriented towards younger audiences. Dark green is very suitable for financial businesses, lime green is more appealing to younger target customers.

The Color Yellow

Yellow is the color of happiness and joy. A yellow logo can be used to grab the attention of consumers and encourage them to take action. Sometimes, it’s associated with caution. The food and automotive industries often use bright yellow logos. It is advised to avoid dull versions of yellow (mustard) as these are sometimes associated with ill health and disease. Yellow is very suitable to use for children's businesses.

The Color Orange

Orange is fresh and full of vitality. It’s also creative, adventurous, and associated with being cost-effective. It´s friendlier and less aggressive than red. Its negative color meanings in business include loud and frivolous associations. Orange is very suitable for hotels, travel and food companies, and resorts.

The Color Purple

A purple logo stands for success, luxury, nobility, spirituality, and wealth. It can present mystery by playing with imagination. Purple logos are often favored by luxury companies, beauty brands, spiritual businesses, and by educational institutions.

The Color Brown

As the color of earth and wood, brown symbolizes everything stable, down-to-earth, conservative, practical, and reliable. Brown is considered as the color of strength, maturity, and safety. Sometimes it can replace green as a symbol of eco-businesses or organic brands. The common negative associations related to this color include cheapness, inactivity, depression,  rigidity, and bodily waste. Brown is very suitable for agriculture, food, transport, and family products. It is not advised to use the color brown for finance, IT, or beauty brands.

The Color Gold

Gold symbolizes wealth and luxury, but its negative associations could be grandiosity and vanity. One downside of gold is that it does translate to dirty yellow on websites. Gold is often combined with red, blue, and green to create the impression of status and prestige. Gold is very suitable for luxury brands in fashion, high-end cosmetics and appliances, and luxury cars.

The Color Silver

Silver is polished, smooth, and also futuristic. It is very suitable for businesses that deal with computers, and technology, but also for brands associated with wealth and luxury. Silver is very often used to promote appliances.

The Industries and Their Suitable Logo Color Choices

High-tech

Most tech companies use blue or black, which symbolizes trust, competence, and efficiency.

Image Source: wix.com
Fashion and beauty

The fashion and beauty industries often use black for elegance and allure, and warmer colors such as red, orange, and pink for excitement and courage.

Image Source: wix.com
Health and wellness

Health and wellness companies use blue to signify cleanliness and reliability. Other favored options are green, representing nature, and orange, which can be associated with vitality and energy.

Image Source: wix.com
Food

Many foods and restaurant businesses tend to choose warm colors that provoke attention and stimulate the appetite, such as red, orange, and yellow. Some food brands choose green to symbolize the connection with healthy nutrition. Blue and pink are often used for desserts and sweets.

Image Source: wix.com

Color Combinations

If you choose a logo, you have the option to incorporate not only one but several colors. 76% of the leading brands’ designs only use one or two color tones in their logos (DesignCrowd, 2020). One of the most well-known exceptions to the rule is Google - they use the four colors blue, red, yellow, and green in their logo.

Image Source: Unsplash

There aren’t many companies that can pull off more than three colors, but even when they do, they use their multiple colors carefully. If you look at multicolored logos like Google or Slack, their logos contain several colors but they are combined with understated contrast, so they don’t look too harsh.

Nevertheless, the rule of thumb is to use up to three colors and to keep it simple and uncluttered. Note that the best color pairings are usually those with contrast. Two studies on color combinations found that a large majority of consumers prefer color patterns with similar hues or palettes with a highly contrasting accent color. Alternatively, for the more bold businesses, applying contrasting colors can be a great choice that makes the logo stand out, such as Coca-Cola, Porsche, or FedEx.

Image Source: Unsplash

It can even make an astounding difference in which color combinations you choose. Imagine the color blue combined with gold. Immediately the association with sophistication and luxury comes to mind. Now imagine the same blue color combined with bright pink. The association becomes much more light and playful.

Once you have established your logo color(s), you can work on creating your brand color palette.

Logo Color Combinations and the Color Wheel

A color wheel or color circle is an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle, which shows the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors etc.
– Wikipedia, The Color Wheel.
Image Source: wix.com

Monochromatic Logos

Monochromatic color combinations are made up of just one color used in different tints and shades. Black or white is added to a base hue that is defined as the primary color. For example, if white is added to red it creates pink, and if black is added it will create a dark red hue. These newly created colors (pink, red, dark red) would produce a monochromatic scheme.

Image Source: The Foundation Academy

Analogous Color Combinations

An analogous color scheme involves the combination of the three neighboring colors. You choose your main color, and then you include the two neighboring colors on the wheel. Analog color schemes are less bold than complementary schemes, but they do run the risk of being perceived as dull.

Image Source: gcaptain.com

Complementary Color Combinations

Complementary color combinations are created when colors on opposite sides of the color wheel are combined. Blue and orange, yellow and purple, or green and red are all examples of complementary colors. Complimentary color combinations will boost the visual prowess of each color.

Image Source: horecajenp.nl

Triadic Color Combinations

Triadic color combinations use three colors that are evenly positioned on the color wheel. For example, red, yellow, and blue are triadic and also all primary colors. Purple, orange, and green are also triadic colors that are secondary.

Image Source: 1000marcas.net

Tetradic Color Combinations

Tetradic color combinations consist of four colors, all of which are equally situated from each other on the color wheel. You can think of it as two different sets of complementary colors. For example, red, green, blue-violet, and yellow-orange.

Image Source: wallsdesk.com

Print and Web Design

When you choose the color schemes for your logo, you also need to consider where your logo will be used. Will it be used predominantly online, or offline as well? The color system used for digital design is different from the color system you need to use in case you want to print business cards or flyers with your logo. Each color has a specific CMYK code and hex code. CMYK is mostly used in printing, whereas hex codes are used in web design. You have to define the correct color codes that will help you to maintain the consistency of your logo.

In design, there are two commonly used color systems: RGB and CMYK.

RGB and HEX

In digital design, the RGB color system is used. (RGB = Red, green and blue. ). This color scheme system is called additive. RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue, while HEX stands for Hexadecimal Numeral System. These are predominantly found on screens for websites and emails.

CMYK and PMS

In print, the CMYK color system is used. ( Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key(Black).) CMYK is a subtractive color system because the printed ink usually subtracts the brightness that is reflected. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black) while PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. This system is used for printing.

Image Source: digitalprinting.co.uk

How to Choose Your Logo Colors in Simple Steps:

1. Define your brand identity and target customer.

2. Research color meanings

3. Search for inspiration

4. Pick your primary color

5. Select your secondary colors

6. Test your brand colors

Your brand has only a very short window of opportunity to catch the attention of the consumer. In milliseconds, people decide to either engage or display disinterest in the product or service you have to offer. The color of your logo is one of the key factors to capture the attention of the target customer. The color needs to conform with the mission and philosophy of your company and transport it fast and accurately to the viewer.

The time you take to choose the color of your company logo is well invested. If the color of your company logo does not convey the philosophy of your company or does not garner the attention of the target customer, you can lose a tremendous amount of money.

Take your time to analyze, research, test, and reflect on the right color for your logo. It is an investment that will be worth it tenfold!

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