Logo Colors: 5 Lessons Learned From Fortune 2000

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In the mind of the casual consumer, logo colors might appear to hold little relevance to the product they are ultimately trying to flog; humble cogs in the infinite corporate machine.

But that same person may return from a trip to Florence, having gazed into the eyes of Raphael’s portraits, unable to ascribe any meaning to what they’d witnessed.

I am not comparing the vehicle of consumer capitalism to high-art - far from it! But in both cases the viewer feels something. They may not be able to comprehend or verbalise what it is that they are feeling, but that very disparity is a testament to the expressive power an image can provide.

In the instance of the painting, perhaps they feel the warm embrace of beauty’s arms. In the case of a recognised logo, they should experience a deep allegiance to their favourite brand, often on a subliminal level.

One of the key aesthetic features of logos is color. Color pervades every plane of our existence, shaping the way we experience the world both biologically and culturally and our fascination with the psychological impact of different colors on mood and emotion is nothing new.  Intriguingly one of the earliest formal proponents of color theory came from the German poet, and artist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who in 1810 published Theory of Colors.

Today, computers read colors as if it was a piece of text accompanying each image. In particular, Computer Vision and Machine learning enable us to decode color at scale, and to extract insights and use them to inform businesses so they can make faster, more astute decisions.

Beautifeye recently conducted a study of the logos currently being used by the Fortune 2000 companies focussing on one key feature: Color.

Beautifeye automatically reordered the F2000 logos by detecting, naming and quantifying their colors.

 

1. Avoid blue if you want to be different

The dominant color of almost 30% of Fortune 2000 is blue!

As the graph above indicates blue is overwhelmingly widespread. Whatever the sector it seems that nothing suggest your brand is calm, reliable and confident quite like blue. Note the utter lack of businesses using garish colors like pink and brown. There’s a difference between being stimulating to look at and simply being screamed at – which is definitely the impression these colors exude.

 

2. OK, you want to conform… use green and purple with your blue logo

But if you’re hell-bent on using blue in your logo think about mixing it up with some color harmonies in order to assert your brand identity. As the below findings tell us; when it came to colors that complimented blue, green and purple wereby far the two most established in the Fortune2000 index.

Colors co-occurring more frequently with blue

 

3. Use red and black if you are in IT as an alternative to blue

If you work in the IT sector and want to steer clear of the rampant use of blue in logo design, why not consider Red and Black, either in combination or by themselves. As the graph below reveals, both are ubiquitous within the IT field. Red emits a sense of passion and excitement and Black conveys authority and elegance. As long as it’s appropriate to your product’s personality then go for it.

Interestingly here’s what the German poet (author of The Theory of colors, 1810)Goethe had to say about another popular color combination, that of red-yellow.

“The red-yellow gives an impression of warmth and gladness, since it represents the hue of the intense glow of fire.”

The correlation between these so called warm colors and the food business is no mistake. The bigwigs at McDonalds may not possess the poetry of Goethe’s language but they, and large swathe of restaurants, certainly know how to use colors like red-yellow or orange to get people’s tummy’s rumbling.

In reality, your audience should determine the style and tone of your logo. If, for example, you’re running a gym chain, your target audience will probably be alpha males with macho dispositions; a dainty logo with understated colors and intricate typeface likely won’t be up to snuff. Likewise an adult, colorless font won’t be a good fit for a kid-oriented business like a nursery.

 

4. Don’t use color…

Another popular association is that of black and grey. So, not using colors is still a great way to convey  a specific message: think power, sophistication and security. In fact it has been reported that certain design agencies have a tendency to pitch their top logo choices to clients in black and white, or black and grey. The logic being that they found colors made them too biased.

 

5.  Look in the rear-mirror

Because different logo colors trigger various emotional responses, a company should choose their color scheme based on the emotion to be conveyed. Having said that, our analysis shows a very fragmented pattern of colors that definitely changes on a per segment basis.

In the cluttered graph below, we see that yellow, brown and pink are underrepresented on every sector.

However,  other colors like green are used very different across various segments. For instance, sectors like Consumer Staples Financials and Materials are taking advantage of all the positive concepts Green is associated to : growth,earth,peace.

Conclusion

This is the first study to our knowledge that quantitatively assess one of the key properties of logos: colors. Standard practices and common sense when it comes to logo colors can today be validated using automated technologies like Computer Vision and Machine Learning. So we can take better decision on one of the thing we care the most: our brand!