With an endless number of colors to choose from when creating a logo for your brand, it’s easy to get caught up in it and what often happens, according to my experience, is that people end up with a logo with too many colors and colors that don’t match. So what would the optimal number of colors be that you should have in your logo?
The optimal number of colors that a logo should have is between 1 and 3, with at least 1 primary color and up to 2 secondary colors. Although a logo could technically have more than 3 colors, 3 or less would be the general recommendation.
Now that we have established the optimal number of logos to have in your logo, let’s get into the details and I’ll share my 9 expert tips for the most effective choices and using of color in your logo design.
Colors and their meanings
Colors have entire psychology behind them when it comes to branding and this is a great starting point when deciding the colors of your logo.
I’ve been in a position many times in my career where I had to talk clients out of using their favorite colors in their logo instead of using colors that are best suited for their brand identities. Purple, as great color, as it might be, just doesn’t quite covey the brand confidence you want when trying to promote your plumbing business for example.
That being said, you should choose your primary brand color based on the below color theory, as much as possible, in order to establish the most effective color to convey your brand in your logo design.
|Red||Power, Passion, Energy, Fearlessness, Strength, Excitement||Anger, Danger, Warning, Defiance, Aggression, Pain||Coca Cola, Virgin, Target|
|Orange||Courage, Confidence, Warmth, Innovation, Friendliness, Energy||Deprivation, Frustration, Frivolity, Immaturity, Ignorance, Sluggishness||Nickelodeon, Amazon, Harley Davidson|
|Yellow||Optimism, Warmth, Happiness, Creativity, Intellect, Extraversion||Irrationality, Fear, Caution, Anxiety, Frustration, Cowardice||McDonald’s, UPS, Hertz, Shell|
|Green||Health, Hope, Freshness, Nature, Growth, Prosperity.||Boredom, Stagnation, Envy, Blandness, Enervation, Sickness||BP, Land Rover, Monster|
|Turquoise||Communication, Clarity, Calmness, Inspiration, Self-Expression, Healing||Boastfulness, Secrecy, Unreliability, Reticence, Fence-Sitting, Aloofness||Tiffany & Co, Pampers, The Ultimate Brand Bible (us)!|
|Blue||rust, Loyalty, Dependability, Logic, Serenity, Security||Coldness, Aloofness, Emotionless, Unfriendliness, Uncaring, Unappetizing||Facebook, American Express, Oral B|
|Purple||Wisdom, Luxury, Wealth, Spirituality, Imaginative, Sophistication||Introversion, Decadence, Suppression, Inferiority, Extravagance, Moodiness||Yahoo, Cadbury, Hallmark|
|Pink||Imaginative, Passion, Transformation, Creative, Innovation, Balance||Outrageousness, Nonconformity, Flippancy, Impulsiveness, Eccentricity, Emphemeralness||Barbie, Cosmopolitan, Victoria’s Secret|
|Brown||Seriousness, Warmth, Earthiness, Reliability, Support, Authenticity||Humorlessness, Heaviness, Unsophisticated, Sadness, Dirtiness, Conservativeness||Nespresso, Hershey’s, M&M’s|
|Black||Sophistication, Security, Power, Elegance, Authority, Substance||Oppression, Coldness, Menace, Heaviness, Evil, Mourning||Nike, Apple, Chanel|
|Grey||Timeliness, Neutrality, Reliability, Balance, Intelligence, Strength||Unconfident, Dampness, Depression, Hibernation, Lack of Energy, Blandness||Nintendo, Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz|
|White||Cleanness, Clarity, Purity, Simplicity, Sophistication, Freshness||Sterility, Coldness, Unfriendliness, Elitism, Isolation, Emptiness||Tesla. Mini, Crocs|
Primary and secondary colors
Primary colors represent the core of your brand and your identity. These are usually the main colors used in your brand’s logo and should be chosen very carefully and purposefully. Brands usually have between 1 and 3 primary brand colors, but my suggestion (and one of my expert tips) is always to stick to 1 primary brand color only.
Secondary brand colors are used to compliment your primary colors or color. Brands usually have multiple secondary colors, but once again, my suggestion is always to try and stick to a maximum of 2 secondary colors to complement your primary color. Secondary colors don’t necessarily feature in a brand’s logo, although they can and sometimes do, but rather in the rest of a brand’s identity elements and collaterals.
Tertiary colors are often used in a brand’s environment like their offices for example, and also to diversity to big publications where a lot of data needs to be displayed like graphs and charts, etc.
Below are a few examples of primary and complementary brand colors in a brand’s color palette.
Choosing the secondary, and tertiary, colors that would complement your primary brand color can be tricky sometimes, but luckily we can follow basic color chords based on the color wheel, to determine our secondary colors.
Below are examples of the different color chords we can use with red being our primary brand color.
Let your brand guide you
This would relate back to colors and their meaning again in a way, but slightly more philosophical.
I would usually advise my client who is struggling to choose a primary brand color to first complete the “mission statement” step of my process of creating a brand identity.
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Once the mission statement has been crafted, my advice is to have someone with an “inspiring” voice, if that is what is called for according to the tone of your brand, to read the mission statement to you out loud a few times while having your eyes closed.
This process usually helps you to visualize many elements of your brand along with a strong emotional response, that might help you “see” the color clearly that would represent your brand at its core.
This may sound a bit out there, but I can guarantee you I have had much success with this method.
Set a mood
Along with your brand’s mission statement, you can create a mood board of how you see your brand and the want you want it to be represented through your brand identity. This usually involves a lot of colors and you would be able to quickly draw inspiration from it to determine which colors would represent your brand the best.
Below are some examples of how “environment” plays a role in determining mood and colors for a brand.
Keep it simple
Like with many other things in the branding and marketing world, simplicity is key. That being said, it doesn’t always mean that when something seems simple, that it was easy. Quite the contrary.
Coming up with something simple, whether it is a color for your brand or a simple logo icon, it usually starts out with many many complicated designs and options, and after many revisions of stripping away what’s not needed, do we usually end up with something that looks like it took only a few minutes to put together.
Keep your primary and secondary brand colors simple. That’s why I usually suggest to limit it to 1 primary color and no more than 2 secondary colors. You can say more with less, if communicated correctly, than what you can say with a lot, but it’s confusing and not well communicated.
Be original and don’t afraid to choose a color that’s outside of the norm or outside what is expected.
Be careful not to go take this tip too far though, which I have seen happen many times, but don’t play it safe and end up too similar to everyone else.
Consistency is key to any brand identity.
Once you have your brand colors defined, make sure that you have all the exact specifications and color codes (preferably Pantone colors), so that all your brand and marketing collaterals will follow the same color specifications and create the brand consistency that you want.
Whichever colors or color you end up going with for your brand, you have to own it, or at least aim to.
Think of Coca Cola for example. I think it’s safe to say that Coca Cola owns the color red. Similarly, McDonald’s owns yellow, and Nike and Apple own black and grey for example.
Choosing the right color for your logo and brand identity is a very important part of creating your band.
Knowing how many colors to use in your logo can also put you one step ahead of the competition and I hope that I’ve done just that with these 9 expert tips in this article.
Now let’s get branding!