Color Matters: The Psychology of Color and How It’s Affecting Your Brand
By Elliot Cowan
Are you thinking about rebranding your nonprofit? Maybe a logo refresh? Maybe you don’t have a plan to do any of that, and are perfectly happy with what you’ve got, but you want a little more information about color and how your current logo comes across? Then keep reading because I’m about to give you a few things to take to your team and/or Board!
Your logo and your branding speak volumes about your organization without ever saying a word. I’ve written articles previously about how “Your Brand is More than Just Your Logo” and “Why it is so important to get internal buy-in when launching an initiative or rebranding” but this is about the dark art of colors and what they say about your organization as a whole.
Why should you think about color theory and why is it important? You’re a Jewish organization so your logo is blue and white to reflect that, right? We’re now seeing a trend where logos are much more thought-out, more planned, and color needs to be thought about just as much as form and function.
Now herein lies the rub: colors are also a personal experience! Upbringing, culture, and context will mean that one person will have a totally different reaction to another when it comes to color.
But … there are broader patterns found in color perceptions.
The human eye has the ability to see and recognize millions of colors and their variations, so these can be huge influencers when buying something, volunteering, or even donating. People do make snap decisions purely based on color. The University of Winnipeg did a study on the impact of color on marketing and found that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone, depending on the product. So it’s something we all need to take note of.
The biggest factor is actually the more appropriate the color is, the more likely people are to buy into it the “product.”
So … does your color fit in with what you are selling?
The other question you need to ask yourself is what is the main purpose of the logo? If you are helping a specific demographic shouldn’t your logo’s color be geared towards them first? If you are helping people with poor sight shouldn’t your logo reflect that and be bold, bright, and easy to see for the majority of your stakeholders?
Or what about mental health? Shouldn’t your color scheme catch a person’s eye or be a calming influence for a person who you are looking to directly help? A great example is a project we worked on for the mental health charity CareLink where we researched colors that were more appealing to people experiencing mental health challenges.
Does your blue and white logo do that? These are all things to consider with branding and logo design that are often not thought out.
Does the form work without the color? Is the color an extension of the shape and feel of your logo and brand?
To decide if this is the case you need to look at your logo in black and white first. Does it convey what you want it to with just that form? Color corrupts and if someone has an aversion to a particular color it will influence them instantly.
Does your logo convey the message of your organization without any color? If you’re about to go through that process, then the agency leading you through it should be thinking that way too. They should not be letting color influence you on the form of your new logo. Even if you have brand colors you want to keep you should be making sure they are appropriate to your brand and that the form is just as appropriate without them.
So what do your colors say about your organization? As I mentioned above it’s all relevant to different people. Brown might be used for ruggedness one minute and to make you hungry the next (M&Ms or melted chocolate) so it is just as much about your brand personality as well as the colors themselves.
Here are a few things to think about with different colors:
An intense color and is often the first color we see (try looking down the street, you will be able to pick out all the red signs or things very quickly and easily). That’s why it is used for Sale Signs, stop lights, tabloid newspapers, and best selling candy bars (Kit Kat).
Red comes in a huge variety of hues and can range from bright red (excitement and passion) to pinks (love, sympathy, and relaxation) and even terracotta (warmth and homeliness) as you move towards a more orange palette. It’s used by a huge amount of food companies to get our attention.
ORANGE & YELLOW
Often used in bright tones and represents innovation, optimism, fun, and joy. These should almost always be used as accent colors as too much can actually have a negative effect on people and make them feel anxious.
The opposite of this is a project we worked on for a company called EventUpon. We chose to make their main branding color orange to push the idea of innovation, fun, and joy as we felt this matched their ethos and suited the overall shape and tone of the brand design.
Studies show this is the favorite color of men and women. It’s often thought in terms of reliability, health, and trust. Blue can range wildly from pale blue (United Nations), medium blue (Facebook), all the way to a dark/midnight blue (Samsung/HP/Gap). It is often used by banks, technplogy, and pharmaceutical companies.
This is thought as showing health, nature, and tranquility. Obviously it’s used a lot to make companies look environmental (BP), healthy (Whole Foods), and close to nature (Starbucks).
Worn by royalty and judges it has always been considered a sign of wisdom and authority (if it is a dark purple). It also promotes a strong sense of creativity and originality.
While all the above explanations have an element of general thought the main things to take away from this article are:
- Is your branding working with the people you are trying to help?
- Are your branding colors appropriate to your brand personality?
- Do your colors help you stand out from your market?
Just remember that form always comes before color. If your logo was black and white, would it still work? Color is an extension of what is already there. If you can answer these questions well you will know if you have a great color scheme and logo that should do really well in the future. If not, it’s possibly time to make that call to HMC!
Elliot Cowan is the Creative Director for Here’s My Chance (HMC), an award-winning creative agency that builds good brands by design. Our mission is to create impactful, engaging designs that motivate people and lead to organizational success. With offices in Philadelphia and London, HMC’s creative solutions and talented team guide local and global organizations in effectively communicating their message. We specialize in branding, graphic design, videos, websites and infographics. Learn more at heresmychance.com.