The wonderful world of colour (part 2)

This is the second part of my post about colour and the psychology of colour: if you missed it, the first part is here.

Choosing a corporate colour (or colours)

When choosing a corporate colours, a company will generally choose something that matches their business type and aims, or at least something that conveys the impression they wish to give. If an organisation is, or wants to be seen to be, environmentally conscious, they are likely to use some form of green: Greenpeace, Rainforest Alliance and Ecover all use green in their logos. BP, a company not generally associated with saving the environment, also uses green, presumably to give an appearance of environmental responsibility.

As a result, certain types of companies will often opt for similar colour schemes. Luxury brands will often opt for logos with the simple elegance of black and white, sometimes with the richness of gold as an accent: see Gucci, Rolex, Bentley, and many others. Fast food companies’ logos tend to cluster around the eye-catching combination of red and yellow: McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut, amongst others, use this colour scheme.

The most common logo colour for businesses wanting to trade internationally is blue, representing as it does conservative and corporate values, and having fewer negative connotations than most other colours.

While going with the consensus is generally a safe choice, making the decision to use a very different shade can make a brand distinctive.

Quick quiz: orange + supermarket =?

If you’re in the UK, at least, the answer will almost certainly be “Sainsbury’s”. As far as supermarkets are concerned, Sainsbury’s has made the colour orange synonymous* with its brand: if you are in town looking for a supermarket and see an orange shop front, you aren’t going to expect to find an Asda inside.

Alongside our conscious associations of colours with particular brands and items, there are also some interesting sub- or unconscious associations.  Studies have shown that football teams that wear a red strip do statistically better when playing home matches than do teams that wear other colours. Olympic athletes in combat sports also win more often when wearing red than when wearing blue; the scientists behind the study posited that this was because of an unconscious association between the colour red and character traits such as aggressiveness and dominance.

Colours for start-up businesses

So, how does all of this apply to a start-up company – a proof-reading and copy-writing service called Red Tabby Words, for example – looking to create a logo and colour scheme? (Which was, of course, where this whole thing started.)

With a name like ‘Red Tabby’, the obvious colour to pick is red.  Red is associated with excitement and passion, which may not be wholly appropriate: while I certainly have a passion for spelling and grammar, it may not be the first thing that comes to everyone’s minds!

A red tabby cat is actually orange, which gives another option: orange is generally seen as friendly, lively and energetic, which seems a little nearer the mark.  Of course, colour isn’t an either / or thing – red-orange (or orange-red, if you prefer) could be a way of combining the two to harmonious effect.  One study suggests that the inclusion of red shades in a logo makes people perceive the associated company as more exciting, while darker shades give an impression of greater sophistication.**

My initial intention, therefore, is to go for a dark red-orange shade as my predominant colour, with perhaps yellow or yellow-orange (cheerful, lively, optimistic) as a secondary colour.  Whether this intention will survive and make it into my eventual logo design… stay tuned to find out!

* Hang on… can a colour be a synonym? Never mind, you know what I mean!
** Full study here: (it’s fascinating stuff, even though I confess that that a lot of the more complex statistical analysis was a bit beyond me)

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