What color should your logo be?

Dig in to the data and psychology behind logo color choices, and discover how color is crucial to you, your customers and your business.
Logo Color Wheel
Your favorite color is red. Your college is the Big Red. Your phone case is red. And your favorite actor? Eddie Redmayne. So your logo design should obviously be red, right? Not necessarily.

Different colors can say different things about your brand, and will appeal to different customers. So where should you start? Let’s break it down:
  • 1. Determine your brand's personality
  • 2. Explore color psychology
  • 3. Analyze your competition
We’ve consulted the experts and analyzed the color palettes of over 14,000 logos to help you use color to position your brand for success.

1. Hipster or hip replacement? Determining your brand personality.

In an article about color, the first thing we’re going to do is not talk about color. 

Consumers consciously or subconsciously choose products that align with their personal identities. Stanford Business School Professor Jennifer Aaker calls the identity a product takes on its “brand personality.” Defining your brand’s personality allows consumers to easily say “Hey, that’s me!,” or “Nope. Not me at all.” It helps them make purchasing decisions between similar products, and helps you target the right people with the right message.

Phew! This is thirsty work. Let’s have a beer.
Coors family of beers on mugs
All these beers are brewed by one company: Coors. Yet they all have very different brand personalities. Classic Coors appeals to a more mature, masculine consumer and is positioned as an affordable, everyday option. Batch 19, on the other hand, is designed for millennials of both genders who appreciate more luxurious craft brews.
 
Figure out your brand’s personality by asking yourself a few fun questions and placing your company on this spectrum of brand personality traits.
Spectrum of brand personality traits - 99designs
While your company may lean to one side or the other in each trait spectrum, you will want to focus on the 1-3 traits that most define your brand’s personality.

Here’s an example from one of our clients, Foxie Cosmetics:
Foxie Cosmetics' brand personality traits

2. Color by numbers: applying the psychology of color to business

Once you know your brand personality, you can start translating that into color. To do so, you have to understand the basics of color psychology and how particular colors make us humans tick. 

Evolutionary associations: Researchers suspect that at least some of our color associations are the result of evolution. For example, few people choose brown as a favorite color because of its association with rotting produce. Red, on the other hand, is a universal sign of heightened, passionate emotions, which makes both people and animals stop and take notice.

Cultural associations: Over time, we’ve also learned to associate certain colors with certain feelings and ideas: brides wear white and mourners wear black. But these associations can change from country to country. In South Africa, red is the color of mourning, while in China, it is often associated with money or good fortune.

Personal aesthetics: At the end of the day, people like what they like for all sorts of reasons. They may be part of a certain subculture—sports fans often like their team’s color, and dislike that of their rivals—or they may have formed individual preferences over time.

So what does this have to do with my business?

This is where it all starts to come together! Brand personality traits have been linked to specific colors through research by professors Lauren I. Labrecque and George R. Milne.
Brand personality traits by color
Let's take a look at these examples:
  • Foxie Cosmetics brand personality traits by color
  • Fulcrum Education Solutions brand personality traits by color
  • Liberation Bike Shop brand personality traits by color
Still got that beer? Let’s see how good Coors is at the psychology of color (hint: they’re very good).
Classic Coors brand personality traits by color
Classic Coors is supposed to appeal to a more mature, masculine customer, and appear to be affordable. This means they would want to consider blue, gray, brown, yellow and white for their logo. Their wordmark is a dark blue, features a white mountain and is printed on a golden-brown can. Check, check and check. 

But what about the burst of bright red showcasing the “Banquet” slogan? Shouldn’t those who want to appear mature avoid red? Ah yes, and this is where we see that color is still an art, not just a science. Coors wanted their slogan to pop, and a little bit of red used as a playful accent doesn’t detract from the rest of their design.
Batch 19 brand personality traits by color
Batch 19—which is supposed to have a young, upscale brand personality—should consider red, yellow, pink, white, black and purple. In reality their logo features a golden and white wordmark on black background. Touché, Coors, touché.
Imagine your brand personality traits by color
Now do you! Take your top brand personality traits and figure out what colors to think about, and which ones you may wish to avoid. Think about your target customers and what your business does. Then, ask yourself: do these suggestions make sense? Are there colors that aren’t on your list but should be because of cultural associations? For example, if you sell orange juice, you should probably consider the color orange even if it wasn’t recommended based on your brand traits. 

None of this is an exact science. But it sure beats crossing your fingers and saying “I guess I like purple.”

3. Blue collar, white collar, purple collar: what color is your competition?

Once you associate your brand personality traits to colors, you’ll probably end up with a list of 4-6 colors to consider. But remember: your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And that’s where we come in. We analyzed the colors of just under 13,000 logos created on 99designs to figure out what’s being used and what’s not.
Most popular logo colors for brands
The king of the colors? Blue, by a fairly large margin. Not surprising when you consider that it is the most popular color in the world, across every culture. Brown and pink were each requested in less than 3% of logos.

So, if you want a popular brand, you should make it blue and avoid brown and pink, right? Not always true. Lyft and T-Mobile are doing just fine with a modern shade of pink, and UPS has built a shipping empire on brown’s associations with serious reliability.

Knowing what’s popular is not the same thing as knowing what’s smart, and sometimes you’re better off zigging when everyone else is zagging.

But how do you zig intelligently?

You keep your eye on the competition. Within each industry there are often universal brand personality traits: accounting firms and healthcare providers need to be seen as trustworthy and serious. Tech companies, on the other hand, value being cutting edge and modern above all else.

You’d think the colors for these traits would also be the most popular, but that’s not always true! The most important brand personality trait for most tech companies is modern, so we’d expect to see a lot of red, purple, pink and black logos. In reality, blue is the most used color in technology, followed by black.

So how do you know what your competition is doing? We’ve got your back. We analyzed 527 leading logos in eight popular industries, and found that each industry has a favorite color (and not all are blue).
Most popular logo colors for brands by industry
Want more details on your marketplace? Head on over to your industry page:
 

Over the rainbow? Go with your gut.

So you found your brand personality, came up with your list of associated colors and compared that list to your competition. But you still really like red. 

At the end of the day we’re talking about personal choice. Anyone who tells you “Yellow = Happiness, end of story” is overstating things. So if you want a red logo, dang it, you should have a red logo! Just don’t be surprised when you get a reputation for being the the boldest, loudest, most modern library in town.
Red brand color inspiration

Still not sure? We're here to help!

Just in case all the graphs and data and research didn’t convince you, here’s a fun quiz to help you figure out your brand personality and select the color of your logo.
Logo color meanings infographic flow chart

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