Designer's Guide: Understanding Color in Logo Design

by Alabaweh Baweh -

Color theory is widely used throughout the visual arts industry. Simply put, color theory is a set of rules and guidelines regarding the use of color in art and design. The goal of color theory is to achieve an aesthetic appeal to the viewer as a way to strengthen the communication between the design and the viewer. 

Modern Color theory is based on Isaac Newton's Color Wheel. The color wheel focuses on 3 categories: primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Primary colors consist of red, blue, and yellow. Secondary colors are colors that are created from mixing two primary colors, and tertiary colors are made mixing primary and secondary colors. 

Color has the power to pull on the viewer's emotions, and your color pairing depends on the kind of mood you want to evoke. Design, especially in the use of color, is all about balance and harmony. With that said, if you use more complicated colors within a design, the less balance you will achieve, which will affect the design's overall appeal. 

5 Main Color Schemes

Design varies largely when it comes to color. Each color is used to achieve a desired look and emotion. Additionally, certain colors are paired together to achieve the best aesthetic appeal. Certain colors work well together based on where it's situated on the color wheel. Here are 5 main color schemes that help designers achieve harmony and balance within their work. 


Complementary: Complementary colors are colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel such as red and green.

Split-Complementary: Split-Complementary color schemes involve the use of 3 colors where you start with one color, find its complement, and then use the two colors on either side of it to create one color such as blue-green. 

Analogous: Analogous colors are based on three colors located next to each other on the color wheel.

Triadic: Triadic is when you use three colors that are at equal distances on the color wheel.

Tetradic: Tetradic is when you use two pairs of complementary colors on the color wheel. 

Why Certain Colors Dominate in Logos in Certain Industries

In 2017, top brands revealed some interesting color statistics regarding their color usage in their logos. What was revealed is that 95% of brands use only two colors in their logo and 33% of brands use blue and 29% use red. This still holds true in 2019 as large brands such as Walmart, Dominos Pizza, and Target utilize these colors. So why are these two colors so popular?

Color in branding is extremely important because it serves as a stimulus for human emotion. Viewers respond to color based on life experiences and cultural associations, which is why carefully choosing a logo color is important. Red is a color that represents energy, passion, power, and even danger. Blue communicates trust, security, order, and reliability. For this reason, it is no surprise why companies like Netflix choose to make their logo red as a way to potentially communicate that they are leaders in their industry. Similarly, Bank of America heavily utilizes the color blue in their logo as a way to communicate that they are a trusted bank. 

The Value of Shorthand Information in Logos

In the age of information, shorthand information has become essential to communicating a brand's ideas effectively through logos. Simple logos can go a long way in design as long as it does a great job in establishing the brand's identity. It's important that the logo evokes an emotional reaction, has aesthetic appeal, and is relevant to the industry. 

Many people believe that more is better. Naturally, it seems that the more information you can provide to your audience, the better you can communicate your brand's message. However, this does not hold true when it comes to logo design. You want your logo to be memorable. One of the best ways to create a memorable logo is by creating one that is simple enough to be digestible, yet powerful enough with color and design for the viewer to connect emotionally. There is so much information being passed around online and the last thing that you want to do is design a logo that takes too much time for the viewer to process. 

So How Do You Pick the Right Colors for your Logo?

We've already established that color plays a huge role in logo design. But now it's time to understand how you actually go about choosing the right colors for your logo. Color Psychology can help us determine this. Color Psychology is a study of hues and its influence on human behavior. Understanding this is key to branding and marketing and should be considered when determining which colors will work best for your design. In fact, color plays a large role in influencing our perception of something. With that said, the colors that designers integrate into the logo will be a central force in how the audience perceives the brand. 

The colors you choose to integrate into your logo are going to be largely based on what industry you're in, what you're trying to convey, and what design layout you have created. Your color palette can impact your logo in a very positive way or negative way, which is why it's important to take your time in deciding which colors will help you remain memorable in the digital world.

Do you want to be inspiring? Or do you want to convey reliability? Answering these kinds of question will help you decide which colors will help convey this idea. Another thing that designers should consider is how many colors they want to add to the logo. If you decide that you only want two colors in the logo, then using complementary colors may be your best option. Similarly, if you want multiple colors then you may want to take a triadic approach.

When it comes to creating a powerful logo, designers should consider what the industry standards are. Paying attention to successful brands and the colors they use in their logos can be a starting point for a great design. Colors like red, blue, black, and yellow are widely used by brands who continue to be leaders in their industry.

Above all else, designing logos is a creative process. Designers should keep the color wheel at the core to achieve balance and harmony but still experiment with colors. Additionally, designers should focus on creating logo designs that are powerful yet simple to ensure that the logo is digestible and memorable in today's digital market.