As an entrepreneur or a UX designer, you may feel your personal preference for colors should be reflected on your brand design, but that could end up costing you more than you bargained for. Color holds a unique persuasive power that greatly influences the way people perceive your brand or products, hence, the need to understand what color theory to implement in your branding scheme.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn the psychology behind colors, why and how to use them, examples from fortune 100 companies that have successfully implemented this theory in their branding, and other significant terms to help you choose the perfect color for your brand.

What Is The Meaning Of Color?

Color can have different meanings to different people and in different locations. The meanings themselves are mostly not derived from any particular features of the color but rather, from their diverse uses in various areas, events and cultures. In essence, people give meanings to colors based on their perception of, or emotions to that color.

In design or branding, color has the power to influence consumer behavior by up to 90%. Which is too big a number for us to ignore in our branding efforts. 

Based on a research conducted by Colorcom, we can utilize color to evoke a desired perception from our target audience and also influence them to positively identify with our brand or product from the get-go. 

In a simple term, color theory is a visual set of guidelines that direct the proper use of colors in design or branding.

Basic color theory terms

There are millions of colors in this world that sometimes get so overwhelming, but each of these colors are created from the combination of two or more colors. Let’s consider the most common terms that will guide us in the combination or derivation of colors from others:

Hue

This refers to how pure a color is. Any color in its natural state

Tone

It is achieved by adding grey to a color, dulling the overall purity of the color.

Shade

It is achieved by adding portions of black to a single color, creating a darker color or shade.

Tint

It is achieved by adding portions of white to a single color to create a lighter version.

Saturation

This refers to the overall sharpness or dullness of a color.

Palette

This means the unified arrangement or combination of colors suitable colors to be used in a specific design.

Primary Colors and Meanings

Let’s explore the three primary or mother colors of color theory:

color theory - blue, yellow, red

Secondary Colors and Meanings

Secondary colors are derived from the combination of the above. For example, orange is derived by combining yellow and red. Let’s explore their unique meanings:

color theory - green, orange, purple

General Colors and Meanings

There’s hardly any design we’ll create without the use of black or white. The nature of these colors makes them harmonious with every other color, hence the term general colors.

color theory - white, black

Effective Uses of Colors and examples

Color Blue

Blue is the most universally used colour due to its versatile and honourable significance. It is also the most preferred color of Fortune 500 companies and highly recommended for brands that wish to convey Security, Trust, Loyalty and Friendliness. Successful brands that convey their message with blue are:

Final Verdict

Though many successful companies use blue in their branding, it isn’t always the best option to go for, especially if it is overused in your industry and if your target audience may perceive it in the negative (depression, sadness or the likes).

Color Red

Red has a very commanding presence that is tied to extremely powerful meanings, so it should be used with discretion. Red is highly recommended for companies that wish to convey meanings like Passion, Love, Energy, Leadership, Joy and sometimes Courage. Successful brands that convey their message with red are:

Final Verdict

If red is your brand’s choice, it is best used in design along other colours like black, white or yellow.

Color Yellow

Yellow is a very bright, fresh, fun and inviting colour for design but that depends on your business and industry. Just like red, yellow is best blended with more subtle colours to convey the desired message. Successful brands that convey their brand’s message with yellow are:

Final Verdict

Though yellow is fun and bright, some shades of it can make your brand or product look very cheap, so pay attention to what shade you choose.

Color Green

Green is a natural colour that signifies very important meanings in life. Many companies from different industries use green in their branding but it is best recommended for companies that wish to convey protection, nature, growth, completion, healing or wealth. Successful companies that convey their brand’s message with green are:

Final Verdict

Be careful about the shade of green you choose as lighter greens symbolises growth and healing, while darker greens symbolises wealth and abundance.

Color Orange

Choosing orange for your brand means you’re creative, enthusiastic and friendly. Unlike red, it isn’t over-bearing to the eyes nor related to extremely negative emotions and unlike yellow, it does not make your brand look cheap. Successful companies that convey their brand’s message with orange are:

Final Verdict

Since orange is associated with fun and enthusiasm, it is not recommended for luxury brands but for energetic or creative companies.

Color Purple

As we may all know, purple is traditionally associated with royalty or luxury. Darker shades mostly represent luxury or royalty while lighter shades represent femininity. Let’s see some successful companies that convey their brand’s identity with purple:

Final Verdict

While it may look very appealing, you should take caution in choosing the right shade and try blending it with matching colours to relate better with your target audience or culture.

Color Black

Similar to red, black is associated with extremely powerful meanings and it’s not the most ideal colour for branding but if it is to be used, it is best suitable for brands that want to evoke perception of Power, elegance, authority or Mystery. Let’s see some successful companies that convey their brand’s message with black:

Final Verdict

For some obvious reason, black is more associated with Fashion brands. To get an outstanding black design, add a touch of white, silver or any other appropriate color.

Color White

White is pure, clean and innocent but it is hardly used alone in design. It is always best to use white along other colours that will convey the right message for your brand. As seen in the example companies shown from the start, most have white in their design but it is not dominant, however, Let’s see some successful companies that use white dominantly in their branding.

Final Verdict

Before using white as your dominant color, make sure your brand personality is about purity, innocence or transparency.

Special Addition - Multicolors

Yes, we can’t ignore the importance of multi-color in this article. Today’s business world has become more and more versatile and companies have evolved to represent more than one concept, business or service at a time. Thus, the need to incorporate this versatility into their brand identity.

Multicolor in design simply means versatility, creativity, openness, boundless and fun. It shows that a brand is equipped to offer and deliver on more than one dimension. Great examples of multicolor branding include:

Final Verdict

To use Multicolour, make sure the chosen colours work well along each other both digitally and in prints.

Final thoughts

A study of the world’s top 100 companies shows that 95% of them use 1 or 2 colors in their logo design while 5% use more than two colors and in total, about 41% of them use textual logos ‘thats is no icon’.

Selecting the right color or color combination for your brand will be a crucial step in gaining favorable brand recognition by your target users. It is not mandatory to use color in your branding, but if you will, do choose the correct color that will best represent your interest, especially online.

For more on color palettes and combination watch this detailed youtube guide .

Are there other effective branding colors that you know of? Please share your knowledge with us in the comments.