Logo Design: The Meaning of Color

Let’s talk color theory! One of the most powerful forms of non-verbal communication is color. It can convey meaning and messages in design instantly. Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone. Amazing!

Our minds are programmed to respond to color. They can affect our mood, thoughts, emotions, or even our physical well-being. So it is important that when we are designing our logos and branding our companies that we take into consideration all that color can offer.


Color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent. When you think of McDonald’s, your think golden arches, not just arches. When you think of John Deere, you think of John Deere green. These companies have programmed us to think of the color as well as the logo and that makes it all the more powerful.

Color is subjective as well as cultural. In the U.S., white is the color of weddings and red is the color of passion. In China, white is the color of death and red is the color of weddings. So if you are looking at making your brand multinational, think of what colors you are using and if these colors will be effective in the countries you are marketing in.

Now that we have gotten the jibber jabber out of the way let’s get specific!


RED- Primary Color

Red is a high-arousal color. It evokes strong emotions such as anger, passion, love, and hate. It increases blood pressure and heart rate and encourages appetite. (Which is why food companies use red a lot.) It creates urgency and stimulates people to take risks. Dark red means willpower, leadership, yearning and vigor.


Orange- Secondary Color

Orange reflects excitement, warmth, friendliness, confidence and cheerfulness. It increases oxygen to the brain, stimulating mental activity. Dark orange means autumn and distrust. Bright oranges represent citrus and health. Red orange provokes aggression and dominance. Pale orange or apricot, peach, coral, and melon colors are your best bet in design because it symbolizes sophistication. They are also really popular right now.


Yellow- Primary Color

Yellow means optimism or cowardice. It increases cheerfulness and warmth as well as encourages communication. Yellows stimulates our mental processes, nervous system and gives us muscle energy. Be cautious though because it also causes eye fatigue and strain and makes babies cry. Poor things! Also you may want to avoid this color if you are wanting to promote safety and stability in your brand. Dull yellow signifies caution, decay, sickness and aging. Stay away from this color!!! Light yellow promotes intellect, freshness and joy. Ivory or cream gives off a sense of quiet, pleasantness, calm, elegance, purity and softness.  This is a great accent color!


Green- Secondary Color

Green constitutes health and tranquility. It represents new growth, money, nature, good luck and jealousy. It lowers blood pressure and relaxes the nervous system. Green calms and soothes the mind. It stimulates creativity and is an appetite suppressant. It alleviates depression! I need to paint my whole house green! It’s a symbol of fertility. Ok, maybe not… 😉 Green is restful and soothing and it is the color that the human eye can discern the most shades of. It means eco-friendly and it is popular in most countries. Dark green means money, ambition, prestige and promotes concentration. Lime green is an appetite depressant and symbolizes sickness, nausea and discord. Shouldn’t be a good color for design but as you can see is very popular of late. Olive means peace and blue green is the most accepted color group across gender lines.



Blue- Primary Color

Blue calms the senses, lowers blood pressure and curbs appetite. It increases productivity and stimulates a feeling of trust, security, order and cleanliness which is why it is used most often by corporations. It is the color of “constancy”, probably because it is the color of the sky and the ocean. It is also known as the “cold” color. It is the most popular color among men. Pale blue indicates delicacy, understanding and health. Aqua means freshness, confidence, strength, individualism and humor. Royal blue represents richness and superiority. Dark blue symbolizes depth, expertise, stability, credibility, knowledge, power and integrity.


Purple- Secondary Color

Purple is a low-arousal color. It is the least used color in logo design. Excessive exposure to purple can cause someone to be sullen or withdrawn. This is because it is a color for soothing and calming. It gives off a feeling of spirituality and mystery as well as arrogance. Purple is a royal color and means wealth because it was so hard and expensive to produce. It is often used in beauty brands and can promote creativity and imagination. Almost 75% of pre-adolescent children prefer purple to all other colors. It is a polarizing color – you either love it or hate it. Lavender is malleable, nostalgic and feminine. Dark purple is the royal color. Violet stimulates meditation, creativity, beauty and music. Blue purple is mystical and red purple is sensual and quirky.



Brown is a low-key color and needs another color with it. It symbolizes the outdoors, masculinity, generosity, comfort and reliability. Reddish brown means harvest. Copper represents money goals, professional growth and career moves. Coffee brown gives a sense of robustness and panache. Beige and tan feel neat and sophisticated.

Grays are affected by whatever colors you put with it. They can be cool and conservative or boring and sad. If you  want a professional, practical or staid kind of look, this can be accomplished with the right grays. Silver is a high tech color. It means glamorous, modern and intuitive.


Black and White

Black has two sides to it. Power, boldness and class as well as evil, grief and mourning. It can make a design edgy or elegant. It is a very useful color for art and photography designs because it helps the other colors become more vibrant.

White is perceived as a brilliant color to the eye. It denotes purity, virtue, cleanliness, peace and simplicity. Of course white space it great for a fresh and clean looking website and white lettering can help a logo design look simple and elegant.


Now that you have the 411 on color take some time to evaluate what you represent or what you want your company to represent. Choose your colors wisely my padawans! Yes, I did go there…

Next time we will go over color combinations and which ones are good and which ones are yucky!


Bree Farley, Web Designer and Illustrator





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