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How to Choose the Right Color for Your Logo: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

What color should your new logo be?

Choosing the right color for your business’s logo isn’t an easy task, we know that for sure!

Not to stress you out at all, but did you know that it only takes 1/10th of a second for someone to form a first impression of someone else?

That may seem pretty quick, but you may be shocked when you discover that it takes about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for people to form an opinion about your brand just from your logo alone.

That means you truly have to work your magic to make that logo stand out.

Logos are everything you want to say about your brand without actually saying it. The logo you choose for your brand should be instantly recognizable by your customers.

READ MORE: How to Develop Powerful Business Core Values and Mission Statements

In fact, logos are so recognizable that many quizzes and trivia nights across the world have a “logo round”, where you have to guess the brand name from the logo. Pretty neat, huh?

All of the famous logos have a couple of things in common—for the most part, they’re simple, and they use the best colors, in the right way.

When it comes to your logo, there’s no “one size fits all” solution. Fantasize, draw sketches, get wild, as even the craziest idea might be a hit. To help you play around with colors, we have compiled the ultimate “logo color guide”.

Remember that there are no strict rules, only guidelines when it comes to colors. So, go wild!

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How a Logo Color Influences Perception of Your Brand

“Color psychology” is a study of hues and their influence on human behavior. It’s one of the key pillars of branding and marketing and it is a key player when it comes to deciding on your logo’s colors.

Logo design is an exercise in imagination, and there’s no out-of-the-box solution that will fit every startup’s needs. One shade of color may work for one brand, while another brand in the same industry may find a different shade of the same color is more to their suiting.

It can be daunting trying to narrow down what color is best for your brand, but a little “color psychology” can at least narrow down what works for others and what doesn’t.

Let’s have a look at the choice in colors by the world’s biggest brands:

  • Blue: 33%
  • Red 29%
  • Black, Grey, Silver: 28%
  • Yellow, Gold: 13%

This doesn’t mean that you should cram these four colors into your logo design so you can align your brand with the big names. When it comes to choosing your logo’s coloring, we always say: keep it simple.

In fact, around 95%  of brands only use two colors in their logo, and only 5% use three or more.

Consider these brands:

  • Facebook: blue and white
  • Ikea: blue and yellow
  • Colgate: red and white
  • FedEx: purple and orange
  • Starbucks: green and white
  • McDonald’s: yellow and red
  • Coca-Cola: red and white
  • Foundr: black, red, and white

Plenty of other brands use more than three colors, consider Google which uses blue, red, yellow, and green! For your logo, we highly recommend that you keep it simple and stick to two or three colors maximum. Any more and you run the risk of cluttering your logo completely.

READ MORE: Psychographics 101: Everything You Need to Know; How It’s Used in Marketing

The Problem with Colours

Every color has its positive and negative connotations. Remember that logo design is art, and art is subjective. Some people may find the color blue incredibly soothing because it reminds them of the ocean, whereas someone with severe thalassophobia may find the color blue terrifying.

The fact of the matter is, you are never going to be able to choose a color that is universally adored.

We say this time and time again, it’s all subjective, baby!

Below we have listed a rough outline of different colors and their general connotations and uses. This is by no means a complete list, and unfortunately, you will never be able to get one without doing a color survey of the entire population of the planet, but it will help to narrow down what color evokes what in the general sense.

Remember, great design is half the battle when it comes to building a startup!

READ MORE: How to Build a Profitable Marketing Strategy

White

Yes, white is not technically a color, but it is still used an infinite amount of times in logo creation so please don’t write us angry emails. Broadly speaking, white is associated with sincerity, purity, cleanliness, hygiene, peace, and simplicity.

If we consider white as a color and the connotations associated with it, it can suggest a few things. Aside from purity, hygiene, and cleanliness, in many countries, white is the color of weddings and the bride. However, in Asia, it is traditionally associated with funerals and mourning.

White is used as a contrasting color, either to create negative space in a logo or to compliment the other surrounding colors. FedEx does a great job of using white in their logo, using the white negative space in between two letters to create a sneaky “arrow”. Can you see it?

fedex color logo branding

Silver

Silver is the color of sleekness, wealth, grace, and elegance. When used as a color in a logo, silver acts as a great descriptor of everything high-end, industrial, and technology-related. Some jewelry brands used to have silver in their logos, but over time it has become a little dated as the color became more associated with industrial metals rather than fine metals.

The silver details on your logo may be a great way to emphasize the sophistication and the classy side of your brand. No wonder so many car brands use it (Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Citroen to name a few). It’s often used for video gaming brands, as the silver suggests weaponry and war.

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Yellow/Gold

Yellow usually evokes feelings of optimism, confidence, self-esteem, happiness, and encouragement. It suggests sunshine, summer, and can even evoke feelings of wealth and money. A certain golden color can also make you think of McDonald’s, but that’s just proof of how powerful a logo can be.

Nothing says ‘expensive’ more than gold. It’s the color of wealth, victory, wisdom, royalty, prosperity, glamour, luxury, and prestige. The warmth of gold irradiates everything around it. But don’t get wires crossed when it comes to yellow and gold (pure yellow has a #FFFF00 color code and gold has #FFD700). The golden hues have some red or brown in them, which gives them power that pure yellow doesn’t.

Yellow pops up in many luxury brands for this exact reason. It suggests wealth and prosperity, and that’s why it works so well for luxury brands, finance, food, beauty, and fashion-related companies. The most famous gold logos include Cadbury, Chevrolet, and Warner Bros.

As a duality for yellow, it can also suggest a bargain, something on sale, or even cheap products. This works well for brands like BestBuy, where low prices are their selling point but might not translate well if you want to be high-end. It’s also associated with caution, like with hazard signs and traffic lights.

Color-McDonalds-Logo

Orange

Orange you glad for the color orange?

Orange is a cheerful, friendly, and enthusiastic color. Orange tends to stir up a little controversy when it comes to logo design. As it’s often used for high-visibility, it can cross the line between eye-catching and eye-sore quite easily. Peachier tones seem to be more popular than heavy dark-orange or red-orange for this reason.

Orange can be a little harsh on the eye if not balanced with a nice neutral color. It’s often used by brands that are looking to promote themselves as fresh, exciting, friendly companies. It’s the perfect color for brands that are looking to promote entertainment (think of Nickelodeon, and Soundcloud), food and beverages (Fanta, Dunkin Donuts), and even more energetic brands like Firefox and Timberland.

In many Asian countries, orange is a color that triggers associations with religion (especially Buddhism and Hinduism).

soundcloud logo branding orange color

Red

Universally considered to be representative of romance, red can stir up a lot of emotions. It can represent power, energy, passion, love, and seduction. On the flip side, red can also suggest war, conflict, anger, and stress.

Red is another color that has strong connotations in different cultures. For many, it is representative of romance and love. In Asia, it’s usually the color of weddings. It symbolizes fortune, happiness, and fertility. In some African countries, on the other hand, red is a color of death and mourning.

Using bright red as your logo color is a classic marketing trick. It tends to catch the eye of impulsive shoppers by creating urgency, especially around Valentine’s day.

Red is often paired with white, black, or other neutral shades for brands that are high-energy and powerful. Lots of restaurants and food brands use red, including the most iconic color-combo by Coca-Cola, and is often used in sports (FC Bayern, FC Liverpool, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bulls), food, transport, and retail.

supreme red brand logo color

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Pink

Pretty in pink!

The color pink has long been associated with femininity, although historically pink was used for boys and blue for girls but that’s a story for another time. It also conjures up feelings of hope and inspiration.  It’s a calming, reassuring, and comforting color, which is often associated with childhood or a dreamy, fantasy side of life.

In Japanese culture, pink is a traditional color of spring (it matches the blossoming sakura), and in branding, it tends to pop up for brands that are “sweet” or female-focussed.

As a logo color, pink doesn’t pop up that much but when it does you can see that it’s often for baby brands, desserts, and toys. Unfortunately, the dual nature of pink means that it can often suggest immaturity or playfulness that wouldn’t resonate well for certain industries. For example, a tax accountant may not thrive with a hot pink logo as opposed to another color.

barbie logo color pink branding

Green

The easiest color on human eyes is green. It’s also the color our eyes are most sensitive to, mainly because we can discern the most shades of the green palette. That’s why green is an international color of relaxation, nature, and peace. Green is all about harmony, rest, equilibrium. In some ways, it’s a color of wealth (it is the color of money, after all).

Green has evolved to be universally associated with the environment and environment-friendly products. Vegetarianism, veganism, and eco-friendly brands use green to signify their values. Next time you are shopping for food, have a look at the health food aisle and see how green the branding is in that aisle.

Despite all that glory, green is too weak for transport or industrial companies, unless they want to associate with the environment.

animal planet green logo branding

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Blue

Blue is the favorite color for marketers and brands the world over.  It’s a color of calm, control, logic, honesty, intelligence, security, purity, freedom, and confidence. Its soothing tones help to establish trust-based relations and tend to give the logo a professional and serious vibe.

Blue is an obvious and safe choice for finance, IT, equipment, healthcare, energy, and transport industries. The blue logos look trustworthy and professional and are often used by major corporations like Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Ford, Dell, IBM, Visa, or Samsung. Its positive connotations work perfectly to create a strong image for such companies.

In the wrong context, blue can look a little cold and unfriendly. A bright aqua color can be a little abrasive if not balanced with something a little more neutral, so be wary of overdoing it with this.

samsung color blue branding

Violet/Purple

“Violet. You’re turning violet, Violet!”

Violet or purple is a traditional color of royalty, luxury, and spirituality. It triggers associations with creativity, extravagance, fantasy, sophistication, mystery, calm, luxury, high quality, and independence.

The great thing about violet is that even a small amount of this color in your logo can make your products look and feel luxurious (especially when violet is combined with gold). Purple is also perfect for any kind of packaging, so you should definitely think of incorporating it into your brand palette. Consider Cadbury as a brand, their purple coloring immediately conjures up feelings of luxury, royalty, and quality chocolate. When you stop and think about it, lots of chocolate brands use purple for this reason.

Like pink, violet is an underappreciated color in modern logo design. Not many companies tend to use it. But those who do often find their place in the sun. Think of Yahoo, Taco Bell, Twitch, Wonka, Viber, Benq.

Cadbury purple logo branding

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Brown

Brown as a color isn’t everyone’s favorite but it sure does feature in logos.

As the color of earth and wood, brown embodies everything practical, stable, down-to-earth, conservative, and reliable. Brown gives support and comfort. It’s the color of strength, maturity, and safety. Sometimes it can even replace green as a symbol of eco-awareness or organic products.

The most common negative connotations related to this color include dullness, cheapness, inactivity, depression, suffocation, rigidity, and…bathroom related activities. It doesn’t really work for leisure, finance, IT, or beauty brands, unfortunately.

Brown is good for agriculture, food, transport, and family products. Such brands as M&M’s, UGG, Paulig, Hershey’s, A&W made brown their own to communicate their values. UPS is probably the most well-known brown-based logo. The combo of gold and brown is iconic enough that they once had a campaign that just said “what can brown do for you?”

ups branding brown logo

Grey

Fifty shades of grey in logos.

Grey is one of the most interesting colors if we’re talking about creating a brand identity. It is associated with professionalism, conservatism, dignity, classics, stability, modesty.

In one aspect, it’s totally neutral and can be a great canvas to start with. On the other hand, grey represents the lack of color and can seem depressing, sad, boring, lifeless, or just plain ordinary.

Still, that “on the fence” feeling grey brings (neither warm nor cold, neither masculine nor feminine) is used by most designers as it’s not as stark as white, and not as clashy as other colors. It subtly illuminates the bright, light shades in the logo and calms down the stronger, darker colors.

Grey in your logo makes a startup look serious, professional, and credible. Just like silver, it has a “hi-tech” feeling to it. Being universal, grey can convey different messages depending on the other colors in the logo (which is good for rebranding).

Different shades of grey are traditionally used for finance, equipment, transport, and IT. Although it isn’t the first choice for food and beverage brands, popular food and drink brands like Nestle and Grey Goose have managed to make grey work, proving the point that there are no super strict rules in logo design.

Apple-logo-grey

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Black

Another color that is technically a shade and not a standalone-color, we know. But how can we not include this iconic logo shade?

Just as white is known for reflecting the light, black is a color that absorbs light. It’s the symbol of efficiency and sophistication, prestige and power, elegance and luxury, control and protection, mystery and seduction. It is strong, serious, and authoritative, but at the same time can fee depressing, evil, cold, heavy, and pessimistic.

Black is a traditional color of grief and mourning in most countries of Europe, North America, and Africa. No wonder it’s seldom used for healthcare, baby care, family products, food, or finance.

Black is great to emphasize the luxurious side of your brand, make products look more expensive. It has that ‘not for all’ attitude. That’s why black is so popular in the luxury, fashion, IT, and equipment industries. It can be seen on Adidas, Chanel, Schwarzkopf, Nike, Dolce and Gabanna, and WWF logos.

chanel color logo branding

Choosing Your Logo Color

Now it’s time to decide on which color you want to use for your brand. Don’t stress, this is something you’ll lock down over time as your brand develops, but for now, let’s start with the easy stuff.

Logo Colors for Industries

As you can see from the above list, the colors used by brands aren’t exclusive to industries. Chanel and WWF share black and white as their core color scheme, but you won’t see pandas carrying a Chanel clutch on the runway (yet).

Canva, our go-to free graphic design tool, has a great infographic outlining popular colors in industries:

canva color by industry branding
Image credit: Canva

Only use this as a starting point to help guide you.

At Foundr, we suggest beginning with a plain black and white logo and then working with one color at a time to see what works.

If it’s not working, you can add color. Some brands even use different versions of logos depending on the occasion. For example, here at Foundr, we play around with the color on our “r”:

foundr color logo branding

The Color Wheel

If you have one color you like for your logo, play around with a complementary color to really bring it to life. This may be as simple as a black, white, or soft grey as a filler, or something more vibrant.

DecoArt Blog has some great infographics to help with color selection. Let’s start with something we may have all seen in school: the color wheel.

Color-Theory-Graphics-WHEEL logo
Image Credit: DecoArt Blog

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are those that enhance (or compliment) each other. See which color lies across from your chosen color on the wheel. Using these color combinations will make the color pop out. Green boosts red, orange boosts blue, even purple and green work in harmony to bring out the best in each other.

Color-Theory-Graphics-COMPlementary branding
Image Credit: DecoArt Blog

Have a look at the old Firefox logo and see complementary colors in action. The orange and the blue clash wonderfully with each other creating a symphony of logo joy:

firefox branding color logo

Analogous Colours

An analogous color scheme involves combining three neighboring colors. The way this works is that you choose your “hero” color, and then include the two neighboring colors on the wheel. Analog color schemes are less invasive than complementary schemes, but they do run the risk of being a little bland.

Color-Theory-Graphics-ANALOGOUS logo branding
Image Credit: DecoArt Blog

Take a look at the BP logo below. The dominant green color is flanked by another shade of green and yellow.

bp logo color branding logo

Monochromatic Logos

Using different hues of the same color is referred to as being “monochromatic”. This is great if you’re looking to accentuate the sophistication of your brand. Both Paypal and Oreo rock a monochromatic scheme with its navy blue and sky blue duo.

oreo branding logo color

PayPal and Oreo are not in the same industry at all, but both use the same color scheme to great effect. This just proves time and time again that when it comes to logo design, it’s more an art form than anything. See what works for you.

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Summary

Color psychology tells us a lot about how our minds work. It can really help to predict an audience’s reaction and build a strong brand identity, but it has no set path and no set boundaries. Your brand can be whatever color you like, and you can always rebrand if it doesn’t work.

What’s your favorite company logo? Really proud of your own? Share your favorite use of color in logos below!

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