01. Red – For Danger, Passion, Excitement & Energy
Meanings: Red has a number of different contextual associations and in branding can deliver a highly visible punch. It has the ability to rev desire; and not surprisingly when it is the colour of fire, danger, and blood on one hand; and love, sexuality and passion on the other. It is a bold, energetic and lively color that can symbolize strength, confidence and power.
Tips for use: Because red has such powerful meanings, it is perhaps best used with discretion. But, if other brands are avoiding red, it may be a great way to stand out from the crowd.
02. Orange – Fresh, Youthful, Creative & Adventurous
Meanings: Blending the warmth of red and the optimism of yellow, orange communicates activity and energy. And of course it’s hard not to go past orange as the color of, well, oranges, and all their vitamin c byproducts, which immediately makes orange feel fresh and healthy. Orange is not for everyone (it was certainly the colour of the decade in the 1970s) and can therefore tap into associations of youthfulness, creativity and adventure.
Tips for use: Because orange is associated with fun and vibrancy is well suited to youthful, energetic brands and best avoided for luxury, traditional or serious brands.
Feeding the Self is an organization that teaches African youths to be self-sustainable with veggie and herb gardens. Here, orange conveys youthfulness, as well as the fresh and healthy feeling associated with gardens.
03. Yellow – Optimistic, Cheerful, Playful & Happy
Meanings: Being the colour of sunshine, yellow puts a smile on the dial. It is the most visible color from a distance (which is why it’s used for street signs) and communicates cheerfulness, friendliness, joy and energy (who doesn’t need more yellow in their life?) It can also be associated with mental clarity and intellect (again, who doesn’t need more yellow?) However, yellow is also a cautionary colour used in life vests, police cordoning tape and hazardous areas.
Tips for use: Some shades of yellow can look cheap – although this may suit your brand image. So yellow is a great example of when to research consumer reaction to color appropriateness and make sure it is the right colour for your product. Make sure to use good design if you want to avoid any feeling of cheapness.
04. Green – Natural, Vitality, Prestige & Wealth
Meanings: Green has two very common meanings that are quite paradoxical; one being nature and the environment, and the other being finance and wealth. When it comes to nature, green represents plant life and growth and is consequently used to convey being ‘green’ in the environmental, sustainable, organic, natural sense of the word. And of course green is, as the saying goes, ‘the color of money’ (US money, that is) and therefore associated with wealth and stability.
Tips for use: Pick your shade of green carefully as brighter, lighter greens indicate growth, vitality and renewal; while darker, richer greens represent prestige, wealth and abundance.
Green is used to great effect for Filmfaktisk’s branding identity. An earthy, pine green tint has been applied to various images adding a sense of prestige, richness and depth.
05. Blue – Communicative, Trustworthy, Calming & Depressed
Meanings: Blue is the most universally preferred color, perhaps for its very versatile qualities. It is a favorite color for companies that wish to convey reliability, trustworthiness and communication (I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter and Samsung) and for expressing the authority and officialdom of organizations (oh, hey there Constable). It is also appreciated for it’s calming and harmonious qualities being associated with the sea and sky. However, being associated with the emotional feeling of being ‘blue’ it is also used to express sadness or depression.
Tips for use: Blue runs the gamut from corporate and dependable, to calming and tranquil, to feeling down in the dumps. So just like green, choose your shade wisely. Or even avoid it altogether if it’s a popular color in your market segment.
06. Purple – Royalty, Majesty, Spiritual & Mysterious
Meanings: Purple is a low arousal color. It is traditionally associated with royalty, majesty or nobility as well as having a spiritual or mysterious quality. Darker shades often represent luxury or opulence while lighter lavender shades are quite feminine, sentimental and even nostalgic.
Tips for use: Purple is best used for targeting a female audience as research suggests that while women list purple as a top-tier colour, it doesn’t even rank for men. Overall, purple is not a common color for branding and in fact Cadbury is the only purple brand in the Forbes list of the 100 most valuable brands from 2014.
07. Brown – Organic, Wholesome, Simple & Honest
Meanings: Brown gets a lot of use in this era of organic and natural food, beauty and products. Nature inspired it represents a feeling of wholesomeness, orderliness, and being grounded. It is simple, strong, durable and honest and may express that your brand has better things to care about than superfluous color, when really… (mind trick!).
Tips: Use caution with brown as it can remind people of dirt. On the other hand it’s also great to cover up dirt if the product you’re branding has anything to do with soil, dirt or mud.
08. Pink – Feminine, Sentimental, Romantic & Exciting
Meanings: Pink has long been (stereotypically) associated with females and is often viewed as being ‘girly.’ However, like all colors, pink is quite diverse and the level of intensity can impact its meaning. Pale pink, often marketed as the official color of little girls, represents sweetness while dusty pink can be more sentimental and light pink more romantic. At the other end of the scale, hot pink indicates youthfulness, energy, fun and excitement.
Tips for use: Identify the mood and feeling you want to muster and choose your pink accordingly. Don’t shy away from using pink for genderless brands (like T-Mobile does) as you may be targeting personality rather than demographics.
09. Black – Sophisticated, Formal, Luxurious & Sorrowful
Meanings: While color is more likely to increase brand recognition there’s no reason black – when used appropriately – can’t be just as distinctive, memorable and communicative of a brand’s attributes. Black is to be taken seriously. It represents power, luxury, sophistication and exclusivity on one hand; and death, evil and mystery on the other. From formality to mourning to power, black is bold, classic and not to be fooled with.
Tips for use: Contrast a bright color against black; use gold foil for touch of luxe; or combine it with white for a bold and simple statement. Think about texture and how matte or glossy black might change the message of your brand.
10. White – Purity, Simplicity, Innocence & Minimalism
Meanings: White represents simplicity, purity, innocence and perfection. And if you had to identify one brand that has used white to convey its brand message to perfection it would have to be Apple – white represents the simplicity of the products in both their form and function. White also comes with a starkness or sterility about it, which is often used be designers to convey a minimalist aesthetic and clean, modern quality.
Tips for use: It is difficult to inject personality into your brand when using white, so make sure your brand personality is about simplicity, purity, and transparency.
11. Multicolor – Variety
Meanings: Of course, what about mixing multiple colors in one logo, such as Google, the Olympics and NBC? Diverse colour generally indicates variety – be it representative of people, countries, or offerings.
Tips for use: Mo’ colors equals mo’ money when it comes to printing so consider your budget (although this won’t matter if you’re dealing online only). Pay attention to how your choice of colors work together both printed and digitally as the end result may vary with different screens and different printers.
Ready to inject some colourful flair into your brand?
Choosing the “right” colour for your brand isn’t easy, but it is important, and you should spend some time choosing the colour(s) you think best represents your brand. Start with these questions:
- What words represent your brand’s personality?
- What colors represent those words?
- What color suits the characteristics of your product/service?
- What color do your competitors use?
- How Can my next graphic design project use colour better?
Written by Canva writer Rebecca Gross 2015