Use Of Color In Logo Design: How Effective Is It?
All logos have some color element, whether bright and vibrant, striking and bold, or subtle and unobtrusive. Color choice, while it may not seem such a tricky decision, is a very important step that requires large amounts of research, discussion, and experimentation. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ins and outs of color choice in logo design and shed some light on the complexities of color theory. We’ll talk about the psychology of color, use of the color wheel, and recognition of color in some well-known brand identities.
The Psychology of Color
You may find yourself wondering why McDonalds chose that bright, orangy-yellow and red for their colors, why Starbucks uses that iconic kelly green in their logo, or why Visa uses blue and yellow in theirs. The answer, without delving farther into detail than we would like, is pretty simple: psychology. Each of these colors evokes a certain feeling or has a specific association attached to it that directly relates to the company’s identity. Here’s a quick list of color associations we put together:
- RED: Aggressive, passionate, strength, vitality and energy.
- BLUE: Authority, dignity, security, serenity and faithfulness.
- ORANGE: Fun, cheerfulness and warm exuberance.
- YELLOW: Positivity, sunshine and cheerfulness.
- GREEN: Tranquility, health and freshness.
- BROWN: Utility, earthiness and subtle richness.
- BLACK: Seriousness, distinctiveness, boldness, classic taste and mysterious.
- WHITE: Purity, freshness, truthfulness and contemporary refinement.
Looking at this list, it’s clear that McDonalds’ goal with their logo was to evoke cheerfulness, energy, vitality, and exuberance — qualities that will make people want to go to their restaurants to eat their food. You can instantly see that Starbucks, by choosing green, black and white, aims to exude freshness, purity, boldness, and refinement — again, qualities that will make people feel drawn towards their cafes. Visa aims for trust, authority, positivity, and security in their color scheme, all qualities that anyone would want in a company they trust with their money.
Psychology is the basis of color choice in logo design, but it goes deeper when using combinations of colors, or even which color is placed next to another. That leads us into the amazing color wheel …
The Color Wheel: A designer’s cheat sheet
It’s no secret that the color wheel is a great way to choose color combinations for anything, and logos are no exception. The color wheel is a great way to expand a palette from one or two colors, to experiment with new colors, or even simply to illustrate color ideas.
Let’s look at our logo examples from the previous section as an example:
McDonalds: The hues of red and yellow that McDonalds uses in their logo are vaguely analogous, a color combination that has been said to be associated with hunger and food (not to mention, they’re the colors of ketchup and mustard), and because of this become very powerful for the popular fast-food restaurant.
Starbucks: Since the Starbucks logo uses green, black and white, it is also vaguely analogous. The contrast of colors enable the company to use lighting as a feature in their advertisement, mainly on signage throughout the stores. This color scheme, however is actually not their first. The original logo was brown (richness) with white reversed out of it (purity and freshness).
Visa: This logo employs complementary colors for it’s scheme, which make it very flashy and dramatic. Any time complementary colors are brought into play, this effect is achieved because the colors are opposite each other on the color wheel, so they have the most color contrast possible.
With this in mind, next time you plan a color scheme for your living room or are considering an outfit, ask yourself what kind of color combination you’re dealing with. Is it analogous? complementary? or is it monochromatic? Basic knowledge of the color wheel is essential to anyone who is passionate about color in any form, so give it a go!
Have you ever looked at something that’s a particular shade of blue and said “That’s Tiffany Blue,” or when looking for a specific color of nail polish said “Revlon Red?” This is color recognition in its most powerful. Although these examples are very extreme, varying degrees of this happen with all successful brand identities.
For example, if you were to see a red box with a mustardy yellow box inside of it, the image would almost immediately make you think of fast-food restaurants, or even McDonalds itself. The same with the Starbucks logo, the Visa logo, and almost any other widely known logo.
The power that color combinations have over our memories is incredible, and should definitely be taken into consideration when designing a logo, a brand identity, or even painting your kitchen. One reason that so much research is put into color combinations of logos is to avoid using already known color combinations. After all, no one wants their logo to make people think of another company. The idea is to form your own color associations, not to evoke someone else’s.
So now you know: Colors aren’t randomly chosen from a hat when creating an identity. They’re specifically chosen to fit the brand, the feelings the brand should evoke, and who they want to be drawn to them. Use your newfound power wisely, and remember: Always, always consult the magic color wheel when choosing color combinations. What are some of your favorite color schemes in logo design? Let us know!
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