Category Archives: 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?

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.

Blue logos:

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.

Black logos:

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.

Red logos:

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.

Orange logos:

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.”

Green logos:

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.

Purple logos:

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.

Multi-colored logos:

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.

Nature

01. Fresh & Bright

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Photo credit: Flickr/u2tryololo

Fresh greenery and colorful blossoms make springtime a welcome sight after a long winter. This color palette features bright shades of green and coral that will make your design pop. These types of colors might be used for a spring- or summer-season event poster or perhaps an advertisement that wants to come across as fresh and youthful.

02. Subdued & Professional

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Photo credit: Flickr/Vincent D’Amico

Red and blue are some of the most common colors that businesses use for branding, and for good reason. Red says “confident and powerful,” while blue says “calming and trustworthy.” This palette offers a little bit of both, with slightly desaturated shades that aren’t overpowering. To the conservative blue and gray hues, the brick red shade adds a burst of extra color that is still professional. This would work well in any corporate context or for a more “serious” design project.

03. Dark & Earthy

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Photo credit: Flickr/Wolfgang Staudt

Desert landscapes are full of dramatic contrasts, and so is this color scheme. For an unexpected color combination that is more toned down than bright and garish, try this pairing featuring shades of plum and reddish-orange.

04. Crisp & Dramatic

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Photo credit: Flickr/Alexander Shchukin

Iceland’s natural beauty is legendary, and this palette tries to capture its dramatic contrasts. The warm, grayish undertones of the top two colors contrast nicely with the cooler greens. A range of lighter and darker shades makes it easy to combine any two or three of the colors and have them still complement each other.

05. Cool Blues

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Photo credit: Flickr/Sunova Surfboards

Monochromatic color schemes (made up of the various tints, tones, or shades of one color) are extremely versatile. While this palette may not qualify as monochromatic according to the technical definition, for visual purposes, it creates a similar effect. With a color as multipurpose as blue, this combination could be used just about anywhere.

06. Outdoorsy & Natural

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Photo credit: Flickr/PapaPiper

If you have a brand or need a design that emphasizes natural or “green” qualities, a color palette featuring greens and browns is a logical choice. Rather than your typical dull shades, this palette brightens things up with a splash of lime green.

07. Watery Blue-Greens

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08. Primary Colors With a Vibrant Twist

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Photo credit: Flickr/Clint Losee

09. Refreshing & Pretty

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Crisp turquoise hues set off bright yellow and bubblegum pink for a palette almost reminiscent of Easter candy. If the pink makes the palette too “girly” for your design’s purposes, just leave it out and opt for the top two aqua shades plus the yellow for a bright, clean combination.

10. Playful Greens & Blues

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Photo credit: Flickr/Shandi-lee Cox

The bluish shades at the top and bottom of this selection have gray undertones, which makes them almost neutral — a great foundation for playing with more daring tones like the lime green.

11. Fresh & Energetic

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Photo credit: Flickr/Tambako The Jaguar

The almost neon shades of blue and green balance out the other two more conservative colors and add a bright freshness that gives the combination some kick. This kind of scheme might work well for a fitness brand or any design that needs to balance a businesslike feel with an energetic vibe.

12. Surf & Turf

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Photo credit: Flickr/Cycling Man

This landscape features both warm and cool colors in both bright and subdued shades. The beachy, mellow color palette inspired by it draws from those contrasts for a combination that brings to mind relaxing island vacations — just one example of how we can associate color with certain places, moods, or emotions.

13. Autumn in Vermont

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Photo credit: Flickr/Stanley Zimny

14. Icy Blues and Grays

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Contrasting warm grays with cool, glacial blues makes for a dynamic color scheme that’s more visually interesting than your average combination of drab blues and grays. If you’re in need of a palette that’s more restrained, instead of opting for navy and dark gray, try these lighter, brighter hues.

15. Birds & Berries

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Photo Credit: Flickr/John&Fish

16. Day & Night

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Photo credit: Flickr/Mirai Takahashi

17. Stylish & Retro

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Photo credit: Flickr/Andy Rothwell

The muted shades of this color scheme have a vintage vibe, with the light aqua and gold particularly being colors that were popular in the 1950s and 60s. But that doesn’t mean this combination looks dated. These colors (and the mid-century modern aesthetic in general) have seen a resurgence in popularity and still look stylish.

18. Shades of Citrus

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Photo credit: Flickr/Prachanart Viriyaraks

19. Sunset to Dusk

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20. Bright & Tropical

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Photo credit: Flickr/Lou Gabian

21. Warm Naturals

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Photo credit: Flickr/shutterbugamar

22. Bold Berries

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Photo credit: Flickr/taro

23. Summer Sunflower

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Photo credit: Flickr/Tina

This combination has an outdoor feel to it, like a summer baseball game: you have the red dirt of the baseball diamond, the green grass in the outfield, the bright sun in a blue sky overhead. However, it’s more subtle (and has more variety of color) than, say, the more obvious greens and browns in #6.

24. Modern & Crisp

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Photo credit: Flickr/Ramesh Rasaiyan

Pairing black and white with bright, crisp shades of green makes for a modern palette that is sophisticated without being too serious. Instead of pairing red or blue with your black and white, freshen things up with some green.

25. Timeless & Nautical

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Photo credit: Flickr/Mirai Takahashi

Food & Drink

26. Neutral & Versatile

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Neutral colors like the shades of gray and tan here are very versatile and can be paired with almost anything. A color scheme of all neutrals, however, can be quite nice, too. Depending on how you apply it to a design, it can be upscale and sophisticated (think branding for a luxury hotel) or calming and comfortable (think the décor of a favorite neighborhood coffee shop).

27. Cheerful Brights

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28. Garden Fresh

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Photo credit: Flickr/ccharmon

29. Summer Barbeque

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Photo credit: Flickr/Pink Sherbet Photography

30. Berry Blues

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31. Lemonade Stand

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Photo credit: Flickr/Katie Ring

32. Serene & Spa-Like

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Photo credit: Flickr/Lisa Murray

Calming, spa-like greens and blue — great by themselves — look a little more lively with a splash of raspberry as an accent color. Adding a brighter or bolder accent color to a more restrained selection is a nice technique to liven up a color palette and give it a little extra interest.

33. Fun & Tropical

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Photo credit: Flickr/Louis Vest

This happy blend of colors doesn’t take itself too seriously. Have a summer party invitation to design? Maybe a children’s event poster or advertisement? A palette like this one will make it clear where the fun is at.

34. Spicy Neutrals

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

Shades ranging from light to dark make it easy to apply this color palette to a design. There’s enough contrast that you can choose a background color, a text color, and an accent color or two just from these four.

35. Pastels

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

Applications for a pastel palette will be somewhat limited — designs having to do with Easter, spring, babies, or tea parties are pretty safe choices. Pastel colors generally come across as pretty and delicate, so you’ll want to make sure your design calls for a similar mood if you want to use a color combination like this one.

36. Bold & Cultured

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

37. Sunny Citrus

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

38. Crisp Complementary Colors

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

Red and green is one of three pairs of complementary (or opposite) colors on the traditional color wheel; others include orange/blue and violet/yellow. When combined, these colors make a striking, high-contrast impression that can be a little jarring if you don’t use them carefully. That’s why, for this palette, the reds and greens have been balanced and toned down (not full saturation like the red and green you see on Christmas decorations) for a fresher twist on a complementary color palette.

39. Warm & Rustic

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

40. Neon Night

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

41. Jewel Tones

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

42. Polished & Inviting

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Photo credit: Flickr/Michael Stern

Warm grays with a pop of golden yellow is a combination you’ll see sometimes in interior design and home décor contexts. It’s primarily neutral (and the warmness of the grays feels calming and inviting) but the yellow adds some cheerfulness and energy for an overall palette that’s refined but not stuffy.

43. Fresh Greens

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44. Wintery Reds

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Reminiscent of winter berries and bare branches against a snowy sky, this combination of colors would make a great alternative to your traditional Christmas or holiday palettes. The rich reds paired with violet-tinged grays feel festive, but sophisticated.

45. Summer Fiesta

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46. Chocolaty Browns

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Who says brown has to be boring? Add some red and violet undertones, and you have a full, rich color palette that — like these chocolate cupcakes — feels a little decadent.

47. Naturally Elegant

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48. Cozy & Warm

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49. Violet Sunset

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50. Strawberries & Cream

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