Color and brand identity can say a lot about a company. The coolest logos are worn proudly on the shirts, jackets and hats of millions of people on a daily basis. Chances are that if you look at yourself at any given time, you’ll be wearing a logo of some sort. So this small symbol means a ton to your organization, but the color of said emblem can mean just as much. Color psychology has been around for about a century with most of the credit for the initial study of colors is attributed to Carl Jung.
Most logos use a shade or two of one of the six primary or secondary colors along with a black and/or white companion. Logos usually take on one of three schemes: a monochromatic (shades of one color), complimentary (using two colors that contrast each other), or a triple color scheme (using three colors that are spaced evenly around the color wheel). Take a look at your brand identity pieces (your logo, letterhead, business cards) and find the most pronounced colors. Do the colors help reflect what you want others to feel about your brand?
Here’s a cheat-sheet to get started:
The color red has the largest number of associations of any color. Red is associated with energy, war, blood, passion, love, protection, action, confidence and enthusiasm. It has been seen as the most stimulating color to the human eye as it raises blood pressure and respiration rates and brings images to the foreground. True reds aren’t found as often in nature, that’s why they are so eye-catching. Organizations that want to be known for speed, high energy and love should employ red in their logo. Best companion colors: white and blue.
My personal favorite color is yellow and for good reason. It’s the color of sunshine, optimism, enlightenment, happiness, positivity and freshness. It produces a warming effect on the viewer and is often associated with food (you’ll find yellow in the logos of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway). It is the color that stands out the most when placed against a black background. Companies that want to be known for positivity and happy customers should utilize bright yellows. Best companion colors: red and black.
If you take a step outside, you’ll notice that the color that you quite often see the most is blue. Considering that the largest things we can look at on earth, the sky and the ocean are both blue, it’s not surprising that the color is associated with stability, depth, calmness, trust, loyalty and wisdom. Blue is also the favorite color of more people on earth than any other, mostly because it is the most constant. Shades of blue can offer different meanings as well, electric blues are more dynamic while dark or navy blues can be seen as cold but stable. Blue has been known to suppress appetite, so it’s not a good color for the food industry. If your organization promotes cleanliness, expertise and ease of use, blue is for you. Best companion colors: white, red and yellow.
Orange is seen as the most polarizing color of the standard six primary and secondary colors. Either you love it or you hate it for the most part. As we learned from finger painting, orange combines the energy and action of red with the warmth and positivity of yellow. That must be why so many people love basketball. Orange is highly visible, creative, enthusiastic, invigorating and healthy. The color orange also stimulates the appetite and encourages socialization. Organizations promoting good health, artistic, creative and communications companies should look to use oranges. Best companion colors: blue and black.
You’ve probably heard of many companies going “green” in the past decade, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the increase in the use of the color in logos has also risen. Green is the color of nature, growth, fertility, newness, healing and money. The color occupies more space in the visible spectrum than any other color so it is the most restful color to the human eye. A natural balance of cool and warm is seen as refreshing, soothing and harmonious. A company that focuses on growth, innovation, endurance, natural products or financial expertise would do well to utilize green. Best companion colors: white and black.
The color purple combines the stimulation and action of red with the calmness and wisdom of blue (but yet the Minnesota Vikings have still never won the Super Bowl). Purple is often seen as a regal or royal color and it symbolizes power, loyalty, mystery, creativity and spirituality. Because purple is so rare in nature, it is often seen as the most artificial of all colors. If you’re marketing to kids, purple is the most preferred color to pre-teens (especially girls). Also, companies that market to women or that want to be seen as independent and creative would want to use purple in their logo. Best companion colors: yellow and white.
Now, a bit about the “companion” colors…
White is used in just about every logo and represents cleanliness, purity, goodness, neutrality and perfection. You wouldn’t likely use white as a main color in any logo, nor would it be seen as the main color when put next to anything but black or gray. White suggests a simplicity and safety that plays well with the colors from above.
For those logos that don’t use white, they almost always use black. Obviously black is associated with darkness, mystery and fear, but it has an element of coolness, elegance and power to it as well. Black is a great companion to any bright color.
So how does your logo stack up to the psychology of color? Sometimes a simple change in the color of your logo can act as a new logo in itself. To find out what’s hot in color trends, you can visit the website of international color authority Pantone, which named Tangerine Tango as the 2012 color of the year.