Color Psychology

A word about color psychology

Just like the shape of a logo, color needs to be simple and easy to recognize and memorize. Colors and color combinations used in logos should be unique so that the logo doesn’t blend into many other logos. Complicated color combinations that include many different colors distract from the most important element of the logo, its shape.  Again, think about memorization. It’s pretty easy to memorize the colors of a tan and blue logo. On the other hand, the same logo design in tan and blue and green and teal and purple and red and black is not so easy to remember.

Taking a step further beyond the logo application, colors used in the entire brand identity design for a standard used for print and digital (web) applications is critical in creating a positive memory.


What color(s) should you use?

Yes, colors do mean things. Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means speed up. There are a few generally accepted principles of color and the emotions they evoke. Color trends change. The trick is to find the color combination that doesn’t just work today but will maintain its appeal and meaning over time:

• Black: seriousness, distinctiveness, boldness, power, sophistication, tradition

• Blue: authority, dignity, security, faithfulness, heritage, corporate stability, trust

• Brown/gold: history, utility, earthiness, richness, tradition, conservative

• Gray/silver: somberness, authority, practicality, corporate mentality, trust

• Green: tranquility, health, freshness, stability, appetite

• Orange: fun, cheeriness, warm exuberance, appetite, speed

• Pink: femininity, innocence, softness, health, youth

• Purple: sophistication, spirituality, wealth, royalty, youth, mystery

• Red: aggressiveness, passion, strength, vitality, fear, speed, appetite

• White/silver: purity, truthfulness, faith, contemporary, refined, wealth

• Yellow: youth, positive feelings, sunshine, cowardice, refinement, caution, appetite

There is plenty of reference material that you can easily find about color psychology. Rather than get into all of it here, let’s just say that certain colors (and combinations) work better than others for different types of businesses and products.

It doesn’t matter what your favorite color is. Blue won’t sell food, red doesn’t do well for translating stability, and clear is not an option. Bottom line? Color choices are important. Other companies have already paid for the research. Use it.

View the Color Theory Infographic below for additional information relative to Color Psychology

Color Theory Infographic for Color Psychology post

Will the colors work—everywhere?

Besides choosing the “right” color(s), you must be able to also reproduce the colors consistently in various media. Some colors that look great when printed in spot color (or Pantone/PMS color) might fall apart when printed in a four-color process. When that’s the case, print materials will be compromised and more expensive to produce. Oranges and greens are particularly vulnerable to cross-color-model failure.

The graphic designer should ensure you’ll see what your logo colors will look like in their Web versus Press mode. I purchased a special Pantone color matching Bridge that displays how inks appear on coated versus matte paper. And precise inks have PMS (Pantone Matching System) numbers and formulae for print usage. There will also be a corresponding RBG formula and the hexadecimal for digital usage.

The Pantone Bridge and other products provide the side-by-side comparison of colors produced in spot color and four-color process.

Pantone products such as the Bridge or individual color sample swatches are expensive (currently nearly $400).  If a graphic designer offers the opportunity to borrow one of theirs, do not be surprised if they ask for a deposit to cover potential loss or damage.  While admitedly tools-of-the-trade, these are generally replaced with some frequency as inks may fade depending upon how stored.

Read our related post on Color Codes.