As you develop your marketing plan, one of the things you’ll need to decide is your company’s logo. And when designing that logo – or working with a designer – consider the power of color psychology. Plainly stated, color psychology is the subtle science of triggering certain reactions in people’s brains and bodies to get the desired result. The result you want depends on the emotions you are trying to evoke, which depends on what you are selling. Even movies use color to activate certain emotional reactions in viewers.
Let’s take one of the most recognizable brand logos on the planet: McDonald’s. Their logo is unmistakably red and yellow. The vivid red in the background is meant to evoke hunger and a sense of urgency so that you want to go there quickly. The bright yellow “M” in the center is there to make you feel warm and positive about the brand. The result: you are hungry, you need to go to McDonald’s NOW, and you feel good about your choice. Based on McDonald’s massive global success, it’s safe to say their logo is on-point.
When designing your logo, skip past the parts where you decide to use your favorite color or make something that looks cool. Instead, really dig deep into the message you want to send.
What emotion are you trying to evoke in potential customers?
> Excitement, Youth, Boldness, Urgency, Hunger, Passion: Red.
Examples: McDonald’s, Target, Nintendo, Coca-Cola, Dairy Queen, Nabisco, Heinz, Kellogg’s, CNN
> Friendly, Cheerful, Confident, Optimism, Caution: Orange.
Examples: Harley Davidson, Amazon, Nickelodeon, Fanta, Firefox, Shutterfly
> Optimism, Warmth, Clarity, Enthusiasm, Happiness, Creativity: Yellow
Examples: Denny’s, Subway, Best Buy, Hertz, Sprint, National Geographic, Chevrolet, Snapchat
> Peace, Growth, Health, Tranquility, Nature, Wealth, Harmony: Green
Examples: Starbucks, John Deere, Whole Foods, Animal Planet, Publix, Hess, Tropicana
> Trust, Reliability, Strength, Security, Maturity, Space, Tranquility, Curbs Appetite: Blue
Examples: Lowe’s, NASA, Oral-B, Pfizer, JP Morgan, GE, AT&T, Intel, HP, Facebook, Walmart, Twitter, LinkedIn
> Creativity, Wisdom, Imagination, Royalty, Respect, Problem-Solving: Purple/Pink
Examples: Barbie, Hallmark, Cadbury, Taco Bell, T-Mobile, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Yahoo, FedEx, Lady Speed Stick, Avid
> Balance, Neutrality, Calm, Timelessness, Solidarity, Elegance, Stability: Grey
Examples: Apple, Honda, Puma, The New York Times, CBS, Mercedes, Lexus
> Authority, Power, Stability, Strength, Intelligence: Black
Examples: Nike, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Sony, World Wildlife Fund, Disney, Acura, Gillette, L’Oreal
> Cleanliness, Purity, Safety, Neutrality, Creativity: White
Examples: Tesla, The North Face, LEGO, Cotton, BBC
> Protection, Reliability, Strength, Confidence, Wholesome: Brown
Examples: UPS, M&Ms, Hershey’s, Godiva, Louis Vuitton, Cotton
Eagle-eyed young entrepreneurs may notice that different colors might suggest similar emotions. Grey and green are both calming, peaceful colors, while blue and black both offer a sense of dependability. Keep going as you design your logo and really try to feel what each color says.
Next, pick another color. Colors with high contrast are pleasing to the eye and easy to read. You wouldn’t, say, put a teal logo on a navy blue background. Darker colors on lighter backgrounds look better – this is why books are printed on white pages with black ink and not the other way around.
When mixing and matching your two colors, think about how they’ll interact. McDonald’s creates a sense of both urgency and positive feelings. What sort of emotional reaction are you looking to convey? And after that, what sort of action do you need from your customers? A tutoring business, for example, might use a dark purple letter or image (for creativity, wisdom, and problem-solving) on a white background (safety).
Remember not to go overboard with any one color, especially as you design your website and social media backgrounds. While strategically placed yellow can create a sense of warmth and optimism in customers, too much yellow has been known to make babies cry. Not a good look for babysitters! Similarly, too much orange can make customers anxious. Not a good look for any young entrepreneur!
Color families also play into the psychology of your logo. Colors on the cooler end of the spectrum – blues, greens – create a calming effect. Which is great if you’re selling plants or bath bombs, but less great if you’re trying to motivate people into action!
Hue and tone also need to be kept in the loop when using color psychology. Take a look at all the shades of green right here. You wouldn’t expect to see some of the bright, more highlighter-style shades for a company like Whole Foods, which sells its brand on being environmental and down-to-earth.
Still not sure what colors will work to your advantage? Think about companies in your field, ones that are already successful. Pick ones with instantly recognizable logos. What colors do they use? What visual qualities do they have in common? See if that inspires you.
A free logo maker can help you tweak and adjust your logo to your heart’s content. See how things look when you make the letter or image lighter, or darker, or switch up the background color.
Make a few logos and ask around for feedback. Is there a clear winner? Do several people all have the same advice? Maybe your brown background is too dark, and therefore feels too serious. Or the image itself is hard to see.
Finally, consider all the spaces where your logo will be seen. Business cards, social media avatars, websites. Make your logo easy to spot and remember! The goal is for customers to recognize your logo from a mile away, or as they are scrolling past dozens of posts on their timelines.
As a young entrepreneur, it’s your job to make the decisions that will have the biggest positive effects on your business. With so many colors to choose from, designing your company’s logo can start to feel overwhelming. If it gets to the point where you no longer recognize the image you’re creating, take a step back and take a break.
Creating a logo for your startup doesn’t have to be something for only A.P. Art students. With a little help from a free online logo designer and a lot of color psychology, almost anyone can create a show-stopping, eye-catching, highly memorable logo.
The Kantner Foundation offers college scholarships to young Florida entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Click here to see if you are eligible!