93% of all communication is nonverbal. The first impression you make on a potential client – long before the hand shaking and sales pitches – is through your visual branding. Whether you like it or not, your brand is telling that viewer something about you and your business. So why not control that message and use the power of design to your advantage? We’re going to give you a beginners guide on the importance of color theory through the key element of a visual brand: the logo.
Knowing your audience:
We design a lot of logos at Hoodzpah and the two things we always ask our clients before ever touching pen to paper or mouse to pad are, “who is your audience” and “what do you want this logo to say about you and your brand?” In order to create a logo that works for you and your company, you first have to know your key demographic. If you already have a business, it’s easier to measure your demographic through Facebook page analytics, Google analytics and just by going through your past client jobs. Who is mainly purchasing your product or service? Women in their 20s-30s? Motorcycle enthusiasts? Counter-culture sports enthusiasts with a more fluid age range? New moms? If you’re a startup, who do you WANT your consumer base to be? The world is your oyster! You get to define and target your ideal clients. Having honed in your audience, now define the feeling you want your logo to emote. Do you want the logo to be hip and cutting edge? Or classic and timeless? What do those words mean to you? To ensure your team is on the same page, make a Pinterest board of examples of photos, design, and other logos that do those things well.
Color Wheels of Feelings are real:
Color makes you feel things! That feelings color wheel your childhood shrink gave you wasn’t too far off. Here’s a brief look at some basic colors and what they can inspire:
Red is a call to action color. You’ll notice that most fast food establishments utilize red in their color scheme because it encourages people to get in and get out. It’s also said that red increases people’s appetite. Red is identified with love (think of a big red box of valentines candy) or anger and danger (think of stop signs), depending on the context. Due to its sometimes dominant nature, red is best when used sparingly in design.
Burgundy is a color associated with elegance, professionalism, establishment, and power. Law firms and nice restaurants often use burgundy for that reason.
Orange exudes energy and vitality and movement. In more muted variations, the color brings to mind autumn, nature and health or natural living. It can be friendly but it still draws attention without being as aggressive as red.
Yellow is one of the happiest colors. Case in point: the classic smiley face. When you see daisies, what do you feel? Like giggling your way through a field full of them. Yellow is cheery. It’s positive. It’s energetic. It sees the glass half full instead of half empty. One note, much like red, a little yellow goes a long way.
Green is a very grounded color. It calls to mind nature and the circle of life: growth, renewal, life, health, new beginnings. It also calls to mind money for obvious reasons, especially in the darker shades like hunter green. In muted forms or pure form, green is generally easy on the eyes and can have a very calming effect. Especially in these modern days, green is now the poster child for environmental friendliness and consciousness.
Light blues are calm, friendly, crisp, clean and refreshing, while darker blues are stable, strong and professional. Light to middle blues are often used in the medical field because they look clean, sterile and dependable: all things you’d want to find in a doctor’s office. Blue is also the most popular and well-liked color, which is why it often works for any audiences. It is the most used color in logo design (just think of Google, Twitter, and Facebook).
Dark, rich purples have long been associated with royalty, luxury and wealth. Lighter purples can be more feminine and are sometimes associated with romance or beauty.
Black is one of the most classic colors and also one of the boldest and edgiest colors. Sometimes a black and white logo is far stronger than any color pairings you could ever imagine. It’s classic and timeless. Think of black and white films or turn-of-the-century print design. Used in larger quantities, black becomes much bolder and edgier. It can exude elegance and sophistication or it can exude rebellion and edginess. I always begin designing logos in black because, not only is it the most versatile (a one color black or reversed white logo can be paired with almost any other color and it can also be laid over photos and patterns), it’s also cost effective when it comes to execution (printing business cards and other collateral is much less expensive using one color as opposed to two) and it’s timeless and bold. Sometimes less really is more.
White is associated with cleanliness, purity, simplicity, and minimalism. Healthcare industries often use white heavily because of this. They want you to know they run a crisp, clean, sterile office.
Browns and tans
These neutrals are often associated with the earth. They call to mind wood, dirt, trees, oats, and nature on the whole, which is why are often used in health-conscious food brands. They also just signify being natural or down to earth. Darker browns emote steadfastness and dependability, like the rich mahogany bookshelves in a nice office.
All that being said, color can be very subjective! Remember that if your target audience is within another country to check what colors mean in that specific culture. In China, white symbolizes mourning (and no one wants their design reminding people of death). This is just another reason why knowing your target audience is so important!
The mood of a color can change drastically when paired in a design with other colors. But the above guidelines are at least a good place to start. One thing to remember when choosing colors for you brand, it’s all about moderation. Generally, it’s best to use 2-3 colors max in a logo. This helps you create a stronger, more versatile logo and it’s also more cost effective when it comes to execution of collateral.