Choosing Great Logo Colors
Help with your brand color selection
Choosing colors for your brand shouldn’t be about your favorite color, but rather what you want your logo
to say about your company. Here’s a crash course on color psychology and what the 100 most valuable brands in the world are doing.
How do companies pick logo colors?
People pick their logo colors for a wide variety of arbitrary reasons. Some choose their favorite color. Others like the color of their first car because of what it represented at the time. I originally picked purple as The Logo Factory‘s official color because it was my (now) wife’s favorite, purple and teal was a trendy color scheme at the time and red, my favorite, seemed a little garish for what I wanted to portray. Others take a toss-the-dice approach, hoping to stumble upon a color scheme that looks “nice” on a webpage. All fine and dandy, but colors mean things and if used effectively as part of a design philosophy, can add an entire new level of effectiveness to your logo and the brand that surrounds it.
How important are colors anyway?
Pretty important. Let’s take a popular logo – McDonald’s let’s say – and mess with the colors:
Even though we haven’t changed the design at all, the color change has rendered the famous brand into something else entirely. That something else isn’t terribly appetizing either. We can do the same exercise with Coca-Cola too:
Doesn’t make you want to reach for a can of sugary, syrupy goodness anymore huh? The biohazard symbol takes on a whole new meaning when it’s rendered in Barbie colors or generally accepted colors for environmentally friendly stuff:
Even when explicit verbal commands are included, a conflicting color symbol can be confusing:
Switch the color (only) on stop signs to green, and you’d cause accidents at every intersection. Yep. Safe to say that brand colors are pretty important. So how do you choose yours?
The most valuable brands
We can take a look at the 100 most valuable brands in the world are doing and how they use color in their logos. These companies spend millions (often billions) on marketing and brand development and they KNOW a little something about the colors they’re using. There’s reasons why the most valuable brands in the world use mostly primary and secondary colors, a restricted palette of one or two colors, and (mostly) limit their colors to the bars at the head of this post. It all has to do with color psychology. Accordingly, here’s some diagrams that takes a look at some of that psychology, the stats of the top 100 brands and examples of logos, broken down nicely into their various color schemes:
What can we learn? A (slight) majority of the top brands are monochrome – they only use one color. The most utilized color is a shade of blue, followed (ironically) very closely by black. The color that gets the least use is purple. By a long shot. Now that we know that, let’s take a look at the psychology of various colors – descending order from most popular to least – and look at how they’re used by other famous corporations and brands.
What blue means: Trusted. Conservative. Staid. Dependable. Honesty. Calm. Secure. Cool.
Notable: Most popular corporate color. Used frequently for online businesses & financial institutions. Masculine color.
What black means: Sophisticated. Luxurious. Formality. Style. Elegance. Expensive. Authoritative.
Notable: Black is used by “high-end” brands as main or paired with another color. Black is somber, serious. Most logos are actually designed in black & white first.
What red means: Bold. Passion. Strength. Attention. Love. Exciting. Action. Aggressive.
Notable: Red works equally well on black and white backgrounds. Can mean stop, danger and hot. An exclamation color. Pinks (tints of red) are generally considered feminine colors.
Yellow logos: What yellow means: Logical. Optimistic. Progressive. Confident. Playful. Creative.
Notable: Yellow is (generally) too bright a color to stand on its own and will require a secondary outline, background or bordering color. Universal caution color. Represents clarity.
What orange means: Happy. Energetic. Sociable. Friendly. Affordable. Enthusiastic. Sunny.
Notable: Orange is thought to stimulate appetite. Orange is used in some warning labels. Used frequently in retail. Often a “call to action.”
What green means: Nature. Wealth. Fresh. Life. Harmony. Environment. Growth. New.
Notable: Green means “go.” Used frequently to represent eco-friendly companies and products. Thought to be a calming color.
What purple means: Royalty. Mystery. Pomp. Ceremony. Creative. Unique. Majesty.
Notable: Once the most expensive color to reproduce (it was made from hard-to-find sea weed) purple is often viewed as “elitist.” Appeals to children and often used in candy and toy packaging.
What rainbow colors mean: Fun. Easy-going. Child-like. Internet. Multi-disciplinary. Authority.
Notable: Multi-colored and “rainbow” colored logos are a relatively new phenomenon due to the web and more economical four color printing. Represents a color-branding challenge.
The above post was distilled into a PowerPoint presentation. View colors and your brand for more. You’ll also need to know how your logo colors work from a technical point of view. If interested in that, you can read our beginners’ guide to logo colors and color spaces.