The colours you see in logos, branding and signage are not chosen at random or by chance. There is a very good reason why specific colours are used to emphasise brand identity or to make us react in a certain way. Colours can affect our mood and even the way food tastes. Here are a few examples of the effect colour can have on us, and what type of business, or industry, is likely to use some of these colours.
Red is the colour of danger and it grabs attention. It is great at alerting us, with red traffic lights and roadwork signs being the most obvious examples out there, among many others, such as ‘Sale’ signs. It is also the colour of anger, but it does have positive associations such as love, comfort and warmth. It can stimulate your appetite, too – just think how many fast food brands use red in their logo, and how their sign will get your attention if you’re passing by.
Yellow, like red, is a good colour for grabbing attention, but also like red it can be associated with anger or danger. On the plus side, when used the right way, it’s warm and happy, energetic and vibrant, and is often used for products such as toys. It’s another one that is favoured by the food industry, but it also has strong connections with construction, industry, and machinery.
Orange is exciting, energetic, fun and a little bit bold and different without straying into being outlandish. Like red, it stimulates appetite, which is why it is another colour commonly used by the food and drink industry. On the downside, it can be seen as cheap, although this can be put to good use by businesses that offer cut-price, bargain-basement goods or services, especially as it can also be perceived as representing good value.
Blue is a calming colour. It can instil feelings of security, trust, responsibility, reliability and authority. It’s probably the safest choice when it comes to logos and branding. Notice how many legal and financial professions use it, as well as the computing and IT industry. It does have negative connotations though, such as depression.
Purple has long been related to wealth, royalty, luxury and expense. It can also be a little mysterious, playful and energetic when using vibrant tones, or it can be used for beauty products when using lighter ones.
Green is a go-to colour for anything nature related, renewable, sustainable, fertile or healthy. On the negative side it can be associated with greed. Deeper shades of green can give the impression of wealth, and dark green is used by some of the world’s most famous luxury brands.
White is often a background colour, and ‘white space’ (also known as ‘negative space’) is one of the most vital elements in design. Yes, literally nothingness is a very important part of many logos, websites, brochures and advertisements. Take a look next time you’re browsing online, or looking at a magazine. You’ll notice that some contain huge amounts of utterly blank space, enabling focus to be directed in just the right place. White also signals cleansing, purity, peace and innocence. On the flipside it can be a little dull, uninspired, even clichéd. Used well though it is brilliant, and often just simply an absolute necessity.
Black is a very powerful colour, especially when used with white. Obviously it is a go-to colour for magic and mystery, and can be seen as edgy, but it can also be elegant and professional, and is the staple colour for the vast majority of typography. It does have negative connections with darkness and the occult, although in many circumstances this makes it perfect for the right message, for example anything relating to Halloween!
Grey is professional and formal, but can also be a bit dull and uninspiring. It is often used for backgrounds, and light grey is a good alternative to white for this purpose. Conversely, it is also a useful alternative to black in typography.
Browns, like greens, can be used for design related to nature, or, like blue, it can be seen as a colour of reliability. It is almost a must for anything relating to wood. On the downside it has connections with dirt (though not a bad thing for anything plant or gardening related), and it can be seen as a bit dull in some circumstances.
Take a look around you, the next time you’re on the high street, in a shop, supermarket, browsing the internet, or looking for somewhere to eat, and observe how colours might be used to focus your attention, or lure you into selecting a particular brand, product or service.