“Color is the essence of landscape, of mood, of our whole perception of the physical world.” – Robert D. Kaplan, Author In prep school, every kid wants to bring the biggest box of crayons to school, along with the best selection of colored pencils. We humans just love color, don’t we?
Unsurprisingly, this fascination hardly ever wanes – colors can convey really strong messages, evoke subtle emotions and add sheer brilliance even to the most common everyday things in life. As one might imagine, color plays a vital role when it comes to designing logos. One visit to Times Square in NYC is enough to realize how business logos are going into overdrive to attract your attention. Some hues can be very mild and “quiet” while others are just begging for a look.
“He who wants to become a master of color must see, feel and experience each individual color in its many endless combinations with all other colors. Colors must have a mystical capacity for spiritual expression, without being tied to objects.” –Johannes Itten, author of The Elements of Color
Before getting to the good stuff, let’s take the following statistics into consideration:
So how do companies pick colors for their logos and how important are they when it comes to your own unique brand vision? Let’s take apart what each color means and how some companies have successfully incorporated them into their logos.
Why Does Colors Matter in Logo Design?
When you sit down to explore a whole range of colors that might project your brand the way you want, you need to understand what role color psychology plays in achieving your business’s desired objective.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a cool new range of denim jeans, an eco-friendly car or an exciting new brand of Robusta coffee – picking the right color can truly spark the ideal and desired emotional state in your customers. This quote is apt in expressing the role of colors and emotions.
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe, artist.
Each respective color, even bland tones such as black, grey and white can have drastic implications on your logo design. As a business owner, therefore, you’ll have to be very picky about the colors you choose in order to make specific traits of your logo stand out and make your message more nuanced just like these famous brands have done.
Putting Color Psychology Principles into Practice
Thousands of brands have captured our imagination and kept us coming back for decades. You too can join the ranks of a highly memorable brand and it all starts with a thorough understanding of key color psychology principles.
Generally speaking, bold and bright colors are very attention-grabbing and youthful though they tend to come off as a bit brash at times. On the other hand, more muted and subtle tones certainly project a sophisticated and classy image, though they risk being perceived as boring.
Here’s how society ascribe perceptions to each color, and how famous logo designs of particular industries have used them tastefully to convey their message:
So we know what each color means and how audiences might perceive them. We’ve also looked at some top industry examples to give you an idea as to how colors can give life to a company logo, and relay highly specific messages to users.
Now, the question is: when it comes to designing your own logo, how should you go about choosing a color palette for your logo design?
Step #1: What is the Color Wheel?
Let’s think about the impact colors have on viewers for just a moment; the infographic above clearly outlines how colors impact a viewer’s perception. Famous brands of the world today get their start at the very basic level by choosing the color that would strike a chord with their audience, and work from there. And that’s why we’re going to use the same tactics with the help of what’s called a color wheel to kick things off.
A color wheel is basically a circular graphic created by Sir Isaac Newton to present how various colors can be arranged according to primary, secondary and tertiary colors and adjusted by color modifiers hues, tints, and shades.
Step #2: How to Develop a Color Scheme and Create Color Harmony
When designing a logo, you can’t just select a shade of blue or black and work your way from there. Choosing the right mix of colors can be a frustrating proposition but it doesn’t have to be.
The phrase “in perfect harmony” vividly applies here as in the scheme of logo design color, harmony can be called a seamless and pleasing arrangement of hues to please the eye.
Designers will often start a logo design project by working on a color scheme; a combination of colors which fit together to create visual harmony . Most designers prefer to start the process completely anew though you might start off with one or two base colors around which other colors will take shape.
When colors do not appear harmonious, they can come off as either too bland or overly bright and ‘chaotic’. If your color selection is uninspiring and boring, the user will not be engaged at all. If your visual experience is bordering on the edge of chaotic, the user will not be able to process it immediately or not at all.
Our brains are wired to reject any visual stimuli that’s not well organized or what it simply can’t decipher. Therefore, we need to present our colors in a logical pattern. Through color harmony we can deliver this experience to the user.
So, we are now left with: how to best pick colors that truly work? First, take a quick look at this color wheel again:
Observe the geometrical pattern cris-crossing every color on the circle. The basic color harmonies explained below share geometric relationships on the color circle/wheel. You can pivot these shapes from the central point on the circle to form any number of color combos or color palettes. Dabble away using the great Adobe Kuler tool.
A. Analogous Color Scheme
Analogous color schemes incorporate three adjacent colors or three successive hues on the 12-color wheel.
So for example, if we move counter-clockwise at “green”, our combination would be “green|yellow-green|yellow”. It should be noted that one of these three colors which usually predominates.
B. Monochromatic Scheme Uses
A monochromatic scheme uses three shades of the same color with different color values.
So if you choose a blue color, it can be blue-dark blue-darkest blue. Here are examples of logos using monochromatic colors.
B. Complementary Color Scheme
Using the complementary pattern, you can mesh two opposite hues on the color wheel to create a new scheme or palette.
Any two opposite colors on the wheel are known as complementary colors. For instance, yellow-violet or orange-blue. Take a close look at these two logos:
The Tagheur logo uses two opposing colors from the wheel, red and green while the Fedex one uses orange and blue colors. Using opposing colors this way in your logo is a great way to create balance with contrast.
C. Split Complementary Colors
The split complement patterns makes use of one color and two adjacent tertiary colors of its complement, hence the term.
A logo which employs split complementary colors is usually vivacious just like yellow, blue and red used by Dole and Burger King here. Split complementary logos often result in having at least one dull color to tone down the vivacity of the other two colors.
D. Triadic Color Scheme
This is referred to as a triadic color scheme which uses three evenly spaced colors on the color wheel.
Triadic are extreme contrasts as you can see here created by yellow, blue and red in Dole’s logo design.
E. Tetradic Colors
And finally, the tetradic colors incorporates two complementary pairs. This color scheme is pretty complex, and only the most daring of logo designers would experiment with it. Examples are Microsoft Windows, eBay and Google.
Depending on the industry you’re in and the consumer base you want to target, you can experiment with any set of combinations. The possibilities are almost limitless.
The Nature of Color Harmony
If you want to get a little more ‘experimental’ with the color wheel, you can certainly do away with the above schemes to one that can create a harmonious scheme without conforming to the general formulas for color harmony:
The above logos do not follow the so-called rules of color harmony described in the first two schemes yet manage to create a harmonious feel.
Step#3 How to Adjust Saturation and Color Value to Your Logo Design?
After selecting your colors, you may want to adjust the hue of your chosen colors; i.e. how dark or light you want it to appear. In addition, trying out different saturation levels (how rich or dull it looks), is something you should test out before settling on a perfect set of colors.
If you’re looking to increase contrast in your scheme, you will need to adjust values of one of the colors – for example by making blue lighter or darker. Try out different intensity levels by changing saturation settings. You can try this experiment by using this color calculator.
Step#4: How Colors Behave in Context
Different colors behave differently, in relation or contrast to other colors. For example, take a red square and compare it against different backgrounds.
Against a black background, the red square will appear lifeless while a white background will make it appear glaringly stand out. Pit the same red square against an orange background, and it might appear almost lifeless. Turn this combination into a blue-green hue, however, and it dances with life and brilliance.
Moreover, colors when used in context of textures and backgrounds can either add life or create the ugliest color palettes. According to Pantone, an authority on color trends, the trendiest colors for 2016 were Rose Quartz and Serenity while the yellow-green shade known as Greenery has been dubbed 2017 top color. As each year Pantone announce colors of the year or season, it establishes trend colors which logo designers may exploit to give the design an updated and hip look.
Does it all just come down to your favorite color? It could be a good starting point but what’s far more important is that you go with colors that speak volumes about your business.
Despite everything we’ve just discussed, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that choosing logo design colors may very well come down to personal choice and going with that “gut feeling”. Still, you need to research extensively into your target audience, and that’s just one aspect of the entire equation.
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