Psychological Use of Colors in Logo Designing and Branding

Being a graphic designer, you’re already familiar with the use of color theory and how it goes hand to hand with graphic design. We are taught that each color affects us in a different way. However, that is not always the case.

Color may play a role, like sending out a particular message, but results from a study show that mostly, color is used to “fit” what is being advertised.

People have been trying to map what each color represents. That can’t always be the case because most of the time, our thoughts are influenced by our own personal experiences regarding them. If I’ve always had an affinity with the color black, then I’d have it in my subconscious to buy things in black color or packaging. I’d also want to think that any design in black is better than others.

Regardless of our personal experiences, some languages of color are universally acknowledged, while some colors have different and opposing meanings in some societies. Let’s take red for example. Red is used to show affection and love in various formats, but red is also perceived to sign rage and hate.

Below, I’ll discuss how colors are standard in some categories, how they’re used in branding, and the things which are kept in mind regarding the message a brand wants to send out.

Color and Communication

Colors are used to basically communicate to the audience. For example, the yellow in the McDonald’s logo has multiple messages. The M can be seen from a large distance. It’s used to incite happiness and comfortableness in people, hence the slogan, “I’m lovin’ it,” in relation to it. It’s playful, warm and positive, which is what attracts us to it.

Each brand speaks to us through their colors. Other than sending out the right message, it’s a means of communication as well. Colors have the power to stir emotions. It can change the mood of potential customers, deepen the relationship with the brand, and increase the probability of a return purchase. As everyone interprets color differently, it’s important that we try to reach out to everyone. So selecting the right color is truly a form of art. Color affects decision-making.

It’s, however, virtually impossible to target everyone on the same plane. Everyone’s understanding of color is different, so everyone reads color differently as well. Color has become associated with our mind relating to different aspects, traits, and genres. In Muslim cultures, the color black is used to show modesty and sobriety, while in other parts black is used for sophistication and glamour. Similarly, white is used in Christian weddings but in Hinduism, white is used to show mourning.

Usage Regarding Niche

A particular niche likes to broadcast particular colors. For example, a technical company won’t get away with using bright and flamboyant colors. They’re resigned to using dull colors to show their sophistication and making sure they are sending the right message. The usage of vibrant colors would just show they are not serious. Think about it, would you ever want to buy an electronic item from a company with yellow and pink as their relative colors? Have you ever seen tech companies having such kind of colors at all?

Similarly, a logo targeting children would be multicolored and contain playful type, particularly jumpy or roundish. Imagine what I had to face when I designed a logo with dark colors and rigid outlines for a kid’s game because it looked nice and what I thought would be considered as “cool”. My boss didn’t let me hear the end of that one.

Outrageous Colors

Contrary to my previous points, some brands like to step out and use colors deemed to be “outrageous” in their niche. They do that particularly to stand out. This principle of psychology called the Isolation Effect propositions that any item which stands out from the rest is more likely to be remembered. If a logo or image completely stands out from its surroundings, it has a far higher recall rate and the ability to be recognized.

A stark visual contrast, especially by means of color, pretty much ensures that what you want to stand out won’t just blend in with its surroundings. It’s a lot more likely to boost conversions and create diversity in an image. Similar hues are preferred, but contrasting color combinations are favored.

This means that in color coordination, a visual structure consisting of base analogous colors and contrasted with tertiary or complementary colors with regard to background creates a hierarchy. This can “guide” people to which color means to take action, as it’d stand out, thanks to the use of a contrasting color.

Choosing a good color combination to stand out from your surrounding competitors, be recognizable and keeping in mind the industry you belong to is truly an art.

Gender Specific Trends

Groups targeting different gender roles particularly rely on this strategy. Colors were never promoted as gender signifiers since before World War I. Gender neutrality and practicality when it came to dressing was preferred contrary to color. In fact, colors which are now considered as masculine or feminine were actually reversed. As blue is a soft and dainty color, it was suited more for girls. Pink is a decidedly stronger color and was suitable for boys, according to a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department.

After World War II, with regards to the feminist movements, girls started wearing colors which were devoid of gender hints as it was and still is, perceived to be a lure for subservient roles. Gradually, however, the focus has broken away. Preferences changed and the color pink fit into the minds of people as being feminine through the wide use in terms of clothing and advertisements. It’s used in logos now to add a feminine flare, to equate it with floral and soft feelings of delicateness, innocence, and girlishness.

Because of the perceived appropriateness of color and maintaining neutrality, perhaps that’s why the most popular colors in cars are black, white, silver and gray.

Cultural and environmental influences tend to play a strong part in the choice of color. People living in warmer countries even if they like black would prefer to wear lighter colors. Blue and green are found to be the preferred favorite colors for both men and women and orange and brown appear to be disliked in an equal way as well. Women mostly seem to like purple and men dislike it much in the same manner.

Color Application

Colors need to be correlated to make sure the consumer is impacted. Warm colors like rust and sepia are used to display tradition while combinations of cool colors like royal -blue and indigo and such are associated with enthusiasm, but that’s not entirely necessary. Colors like red prompt users to take action while colors like sky blue are more serene and used to depict calm.

Neutral colors like black, white and gray, when used together, tend to give a deeper expression and make the other stick out. Consider the example of the Tao symbol of “Yin-Yang” and how black and white are in harmony.

The simplest colors express the intentions and thoughts of the brand without having to use any words to persuade the audience with the use of words. Putting forth opposing colors, as discussed before, are exceptions and not the rule but they have successfully managed to capture the audience with regards to their visibility in the market. Take Starbucks Coffee for example. Their logo stands out from the rest, yet they have not completely broken away from their niche or industry.

Clear and comprehensible communication through the impact of color is successful branding. The fewer hues used in a composition, the better and easier it is to remember.

Brand Personality

As pretty much determined throughout, almost all of the layman’s judgment on products is based on color. So it’s important to find a color which fits in with the personality of the product as well as the brand. What’s important to note is that the functionality of the product is important to note as well as the design with regards to the color. A product’s own personality must also be reflected in the brand.

Noting down the characteristics of the color as well as the colors used by the competitors, it is important to make sure the color used is appropriate, as well as standing out from your competitors. Crossover traits have more freedom to exercise their use of contrasts, as contrasting colors stand out more than the colors which blend into each other comparatively to those colors that do not complement each other in any way.

Different colors yield different interpretations based on different people, but what brands look forward to is enticing the majority of the consumers and make sure that the right message is sent across as well as the personality of the brand when it comes to campaigning.

Specific categories have already come up with the ideal type of personality they’re used for the brand. For example, if a brand hopes to portray sophistication, then the traits they should execute traits like romance, charm, and glamour.

Brand Recognition

So regarding what I’ve talked about up till now, it should have become clear how brands go about in understanding the proper usage of colors. It’s vital to create a positive image amongst your consumers and distinguish your brand. In order to do that, the colors you choose should set you apart and keep in mind your industry and image at the same time. The psychology of colors influences purchasing and company branding, product design and packaging contribute to it. By creating a brand mark, marketers can establish brand recognition by stimulating the colors in all of their products, stores, and websites.

Many shoppers like to seek out brands they actually recognize. Successful color manipulation enables consumers to recognize your brand from afar and distinguish it from other, similar products.

Once brand recognition is established, trademark colors can temporarily be manipulated to add interest and variance. Take Heinz for example. It has successfully achieved brand recognition by the use of its color red with ketchup bottles. When EZ Squirt Blastin’ Green ketchup was introduced in October 2000, the dramatic alteration boosted product sales by $23 million because it drew interest and attracted attention. This is just one way color in brand recognition was used.

Colors mean different things. With respect to experiences, cultural differences, personal preferences and the right situation or industry, it is often hard to equate color with the right context. The effect that individual colors have on us is different for all. Colors are a powerful marketing tool and a crucial part of branding that influences customer purchases and is never added as an “afterthought” as most people seem to think. Selecting the right colors has a huge impact on sales.

Different contexts often confuse us, but successful brand recognition enables us to perceive the right message, the individuality of a brand and separate it from the rest of the crowd. Even the names of the colors have a profound effect on our ideology. Unusual and unique names tend to influence purchase as compared to traditional names for color. It’s because then the names are different and, creative, and hence more memorable. A product would achieve a higher impact if I call it “sky blue” instead of just light blue.

Our association with a brand will extend and the likelihood of return would increase as a result of successful branding. We are not guided completely by rationale when shopping. We have a tendency to be influenced by elements like feelings and desires. Marketers and designers are very much aware of this fact and use it to the best of their advantage.

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