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Colors are an integral part of our lives. The colors found in nature are important to us because we have adapted to survive in nature! Colors are an important part of our visual arts, too, which is considered to be the first of the human professions!

In the modern concept, manipulation of colors to get a desired effect is believed to be both subjective and technical. Basically, the multitude of colors we see are divided into groups:

Primary colors (colors in their own right; they cannot be made by mixing other colors) — red, yellow and blue;

Secondary colors (colors we get by mixing the primary colors) — green, purple, orange, etc.; and

Tertiary colors (colors we get by mixing the primary and secondary colors) .

And the main bands of colors are six: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, and according to Sir Issac Newton, (1642-1747) mathematician and physicist and one of the eminent scientific intellects of all time, there are seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, indigo and violet. But the popular pattern with which an artist creates an ever-lasting colorful impression holds up to a set of twelve colors: black, grey, white, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown and azure.

An expert on colors stated that: Colors by themselves are not a fundamental property of light but are often related to the physiological response of the eye to light. The color of an object depends on both the physics of the object in its environment and the characteristic of the perceiving eye and brain. It is believed that the human eye can distinguish thousands of different colors – shades, hues and tints! Most humans have three types of color receptors, the organs that receive colors and transmit them to the brain, but many animals, such as some species of spiders, some marsupials, birds, reptiles and several types of fish, and some human females, have four types!!

colors in logo design

It is interesting to know that a person’s perception of the color of any object depends not only on the spectrum of light reflecting from its surface but also on a number of contextual cues so that the color is perceived as relatively constant. This effect is known as “color constancy”. For example, when we think of milk, we think of it in ‘white’ color, but not in any other color; when we think of blood, we think of it in ‘red’, but never in black, blue or green though there are some animals whose blood is other than red; when we think of a leaf of a plant, we see it in green in our mind’s eye. You can find a few free resources which include color tools in this list.

Just because we are now able to define color and give it a colorful terminology, it does not mean that the concept and use of color are new phenomena. colors have been an integral part of the human societies since pre-historic times. From stone-age man, cave man, man in ancient civilizations to the present computer-man, all have been influenced by colors and all have used colors in their everyday life.

The man in primitive societies used color for war-paint (drawing colorful designs on their face and body in order to frighten the enemy and also to show off their status), for decorating the deities, shrines, idols, totems; the man in the medieval societies used color for their clothes, for decorating their dwellings, and more importantly, for representing themselves in other social activities, such as war, sport, traditional ceremonies, etc. Read more about the ancient history of logo design.

And in the present modern societies, color is in every aspect of life in general – just try to imagine how difficult it would be to have all ‘white’ toothbrushes in a family of four, they can never know which is whose, and how hard it would be for you to find your own car in a parking-lot when all the cars are painted ‘black’! In nature, the animals have mastered the art of camouflage by having colors or by changing their colors to suit their surrounding, and some animals are with bright body colors, usually yellow and red, to warn their predators that they are toxic and so should be avoided.

The colors the first people (according to the records available, between 40,000 and 10,000 years B.C.) used mostly were: red, black and white. The Magdalenian painters, the people who were supposed to have lived between 18,000 and 10,000 years B.C. and drawn pictures of animals on the faces of rocks in the open, and on the floors, walls and ceilings of the caves in several places across Europe, used yellow and brown. By using crude methods and raw materials – minerals found in the earth, water rich in calcium, vegetables and animal oils – these cave painters of Magdalenian were able to produce awesome “polychrome art”!

Though there has never been an undisputed explanation for the purpose of drawing these paintings, one very strong explanation we all must agree to is that ‘art’ is a form of expression and man needs to express his thoughts in one form or through one medium or the other; man needs to express his thoughts for communication or for preservation of history or for recreation or just for the mere satisfaction of expression, and there has never been a stopping to this urge.

Though there has been no agreement on the purpose of drawing these cave paintings, the time period and the material used among the experts, almost every eminent historian and art critic opines that the awesome colorful cave art was thought-provoking and probably this art later became the ‘father of religion’!

colors in logo design

Color stimulates our senses:

“Color psychology” is a recognized system of investigating the effect of colors on human behavior, feelings and emotions.

The eye receives the light reflected from the surface of an object and sends it to the brain which then acts or reacts by creating impulses depending on the ‘color’ the light brings in, which, in turn, control the person’s or animal’s behavior. It is like we smile at a smiling baby but turn away from or wince at a crying baby. The same way, studies have shown that people react in different ways to different colors. [This assumption may also depend upon the culture, time period and religious aspects.] It is a proven fact that when we see items of food in red color, we tend to get hungry faster and drool more than when we see food in pale colors.

Some of the most common ‘colors and the moods (positive and negative)’ they generate in people and animals are:


Positive: solid, intelligence, modesty, practicality, maturity

Negative: old age, obsolete, rusty


Positive: mystery, secrecy, tradition

Negative: fear, evil, death, mourning


Positive: power, calmness, success, trustworthiness
{the most common and most liked color}


Positive: earth and nature, simplicity, seriousness

Negative: drab, uninteresting


Positive: harmony, health and healing, nature, prosperity, money

Negative: greed, jealousy


Positive: affordability, fun, youth, creativity, celebration


Positive: royalty, justice, fantasy and dream, luxury, wealth


Positive: excitement, action, adventure, love, passion, food

Negative: danger, death, caution, anger, hunger


Positive: simplicity, cleanliness, innocence, purity, peacefulness

Negative: death, mourning (in certain cultures)


Positive: cheerfulness, playfulness, curiosity, amusement, intellect

Negative: flashy, carelessness, harmful
{the most difficult color for the eye}


Positive: femininity, flamboyance, openness, friendliness

Negative: carefree, demanding attention

colors in logo design

Colors in everyday life:

The ‘eye’ which is the body organ that receives thousands of colors of objects in itself comes only in a limited number of colors – ‘brown’ being the most common and ‘green’ being the least common. There are believed to be 20 cases of pure natural red eye color throughout the world.

As colors influence our moods and behavior, we use colors for different purposes in our daily activities. The use of a specific color in certain traditional or ceremonial activity, however, has a different connotation depending on the culture of a society and the period of time of its existence. For example, a bride wearing a ‘white’ dress on her wedding is accepted very well in the western cultures, but the same white is used for mourning and worn by widows in some eastern cultures. The westerns may feel repulsive or offensive on seeing yellow color being used at a religious ceremony, but the same yellow color may generate reverence and intellect in people of the East!

As every rule has an exception, this color code also has exceptions and there are some colors that are used for certain specific purposes universally! The best example is the color red which is used for ‘danger’, ‘stop’, ‘no’, ‘wrong’, etc., and the quite opposite is the color green used for ‘safe’, ‘proceed’, ‘yes’, ‘right’, etc., and the color white being used to express peace, simplicity, purity, etc.

Color terminology in languages:

Colors are used extensively in languages. There are proverbs, sayings, phrasal verbs and some common expressions used in similes and metaphors (‘color idioms’) to express the moods, feelings and behavior of people and animals with color-word phrases. For example, “to see red”, “to paint the town red”, “ to be in the pink”, “ to feel blue”, “white lies”, “written in black and white”, “being green with envy”, “white as a sheet”, “once in a blue moon”, “green card”, “green light”, “with flying colors”, “nailing one’s colors to the mast”, “one’s true colors”, etc.

Colors & Computers:

People who work with colors in their profession or occupation should have some basic knowledge of the science of colors and color combination, and how colors influence the moods of people and animals.

Colors change to different shades and hues depending on the material they are projected (printed) on. A certain color may look pale when it is used on a piece of cloth that absorbs liquids, and the same color looks bright when it is used on a glossy paper, and yet looks with a different hue when used on a plastic sheet. And a color combination made on the computer screen may not be the same when printed on a paper – it is not that it changes into a different color, but gives out a different shade or hue.

To gain mastery over the use of color combination, an artist, painter or logo design team or logo designer must have some basic knowledge of the dynamics and terminology of the color and color combination. Some of them are as follows:

Chromatics” – the study of colors physiologically; “color psychology” – the study of identifying the effects of color on human emotions and activities; “chromatic therapy” – using color psychology scientifically (‘chromatic therapy’ is used as a form of alternative medicine attributed to various Eastern traditions); “color theory” – the art of color mixing and the visual impact of color combination; “color code” – a system for displaying information using different colors; “color contrast”; “optical illusion” – a condition in which the eye (the perception of color or vision) is manipulated into believing something that is not there or something that is not what it actually is; and so on.

Colors and website design:

When it comes to web-designing on computers, designers had been encouraged to stick to the ‘web-safe’ colors which were a set 216 colors (colors with their shades and hues) commonly used. However, David Lehn and Hadly Stern, have discovered that only 22 of the 216 colors used in the web-designing are reliably consistent (on 16-bit computer displays). These 22 colors can be considered “really safe” colors to use in web-designing because they are relatively consistent.

Another important fact a web-designer or any other professional, using color combination must bear in mind is that not all people can identify all colors. People who cannot recognize all colors are generally called ‘color blind’. (This phrase is not very apt because they do identify some colors; they do not see the world only in black and white, and so the more appropriate term or phrase to describe them is “color deficient’!)

In some people partial eye-sight, aging and congenital color deficits all produce changes in perception of colors that results in reduced visual effectiveness of certain color combination. [In countries like Sweden, along with the traditional set of traffic lights – red, yellow/amber and green – another set of lights that are easy to perceive for the color deficient people are placed at the road junctions!] A combination of two or three colors that contrast sharply to someone with normal vision may be less clear or even confusing to someone with color blindness!

Therefore, the web designer should not take it for granted that the clarity of a design is appreciated in the same way by all the people.

Color in sensory branding and log design:

Branding or logo design is the art of giving a symbol or icon to a commercial product a company produces or a service a firm or company (law firms, hotels, travel agents, etc.) gives, or just as a symbol for recognition for a club or association. Look at this Matcha Tea brand and how we used color to create the right impact.

A logo design is the most repeated and frequently displayed symbol of a business, and “color” plays a major part in creating a logo design.

There are three kinds of logos: text logos – with simple words without picture, design or symbol that explain the nature of that particular business; symbol logos – with a picture, design or symbol but without written words; and text and symbol logos – with some written words and a picture, design or symbol in it.

Martin Lindstrom, one of the most respected ‘sensory branding gurus’ and author of several books and DVD’s, advises his clients, the logo designers, to have good knowledge of colors and color combination because, according to the statics, 83% of all commercial communication appeals only to one sense – our eyes!

It is a very well-known fact that the human mind is hardwired to respond to color, and a person’s subconscious mind turns colors into messages, and that colors can influence the opinions of a person in less time than it takes to blink an eye!

As the main purpose of commercial branding is to facilitate cross-language and cross-culture marketing, most logos tend to be ‘symbol logos’ because language plays little or no role when the logo crosses its place of origin, and while creating a symbol logo, the choice of color is as important, if not more important, as the symbol design itself.

The logo designer without this basic knowledge is bound to ignore or overlook the choice of color in his client’s logo, and the client may be losing his/her potential customers or clients instead of luring them. In such cases the main purpose of having a logo is lost!

At SpellBrand, one of a very few logo designers who are equipped with such tools of trade to create not just logos but legendary logos, a client is given not only a colorful logo but a never-fading colorful experience of having a logo!!

What’s the Right Color for Your Logo?

Colors have a strong impact on our logical or emotional state. For instance, red evokes sexiness or aggressive nature while blue is associated with calmness and loyalty. You might find it hard to believe but colors can even help treat some diseases.

It is no surprise then that finding the right color or color combinations is proven to boost your brands. It helps attract attention and set a mood for your customers. Though a great logo designer (read what to look for in a good logo designer) can help you choose the right colors, it is also valuable to learn this aspect.

A common mistake committed by many entrepreneurs is using more colors in their logo designs. Each color creates a single message or association. So if you are using 5 colors in your logos or brands, it will deliver 5 different messages. Unfortunately, consumers cannot handle that much perception.

The first thing you should consider in finding the appropriate color is your competitors. It is not wise to copy the color scheme of the leading brands for it will create an impression that you’re just a second-rate version.

Also, pay attention to the demographics of your market such as gender, age and culture. A trendy neon green might appeal to youngsters but painful to look at for your average grandmas and grandpas. In a way, it sets the limitation of the color you can use.

For more information about this topic, I suggest you pay a visit to Inspiration Bit for it offers a comprehensive discussion of the dos and don’ts of colors.

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Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.