By Pamela Webber, Chief Operations Officer for 99designs
One look at their logos and you know instantly that Twitter is friendly and casual, or that Coca Cola is youthful and energetic. But how? The art of logo design is all about being concise—you only have a glance to explain what kind of brand you are. That’s why it’s crucial to speak the language of color. Logo designers need to know what colors evoke which personality traits, and also how those colors work in your client’s industry, so you can choose whether to go with the flow—or against it.
Colors have an enormous, even instinctual, impact on the viewer’s psyche, as evidenced by study after study after study. Marketers have caught on to this, and their own research revealed that certain brand traits are linked to certain colors, placing extra emphasis on choosing logo colors.
At 99designs, we wanted to dig deeper, particularly into the differences between industries. So we poured through our past client data from over 14,000 custom designed logos to see how eight top industries incorporated colors, and which brand traits they hoped to encapsulate with their logos.
Below is an overview of what we discovered amongst colors chosen by the industry leaders and the colors’ universal performance among all industries (data visualizations were done by MH Designs). You can also click on the accompanying link to see our full research, including additional data and examples of logos that exemplify that industry’s colors.
Serious, subdued, and mature: accounting brands don’t mess around. This industry ranked as one of our most formal and professional, with strong preferences for no-nonsense traits. Their color choices reflect that, with a dominant use of blue and gray. Surprisingly, a substantial amount of accounting brands also wished to appear “modern” over “classical,” perhaps in a bid to attract a younger clientele.
As you might guess, green is the most popular branding color for agriculture logos. It’s not a bad choice, either, considering that it represents growth of all kinds, monetary as well as biological. The industry on a whole clearly defines itself by its traditional values, but there’s also a sizable emphasis on affordability—after all, everyone has to eat.
Healthcare is an industry that likes to play it safe with its logo colors. That explains the popularity of blue—the safest and most trustworthy branding color. The industry’s strongest personality trait is subdued, which is why warm colors like red, yellow, and orange tend to be avoided.
Just like the accounting industry, legal wishes to come across as serious and doesn’t mind formality. However, law firms and other legal services prefer a classical persona, drawing on their rich history that dates back to the Ancient Greeks, but—almost contradictory—want to appear modern, most likely to appeal to younger clientele. The prominence of blue and gray suit the industry’s needs just fine, as does avoiding brighter, more playful colors.
Striving for young, hip, and exclusive, the marketing industry knows what people want. We see a lot more variety in the logo colors of marketing agencies, even some that go unused in other industries, like purple, brown, and pink. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are a good fit for the young and modern look.
The real estate industry tends to go by the book, avoiding risks with lots of blues and sticking to the universal averages in most cases. The most noteworthy exception among its industry leaders is Century21 with it’s yellow and black logo, which just proves that sometimes it pays to go against the grain.
The retail industry caters to a broad range of customers and tastes, so it’s understandable that collectively they have no strong preference for any single personality trait. Their only leaning is youthfulness, reflected in the overwhelming presence of red (and yellow, to a lesser extent) among industry leaders. Taken all together, though, retail brands tend to make use of all colors, specializing in their individual niches.
What good would a tech brand be if it wasn’t modern? Red, blue, and orange take the lead in the tech industry as the colors that denote “modern,” and the above-average usage of black shows the influence of striving to be luxurious. Despite its masculine leanings, tech brands mostly avoid brown.
If these insights peaked your interest, check out our new Psychology of Color resource. Not only does it expound on the data above, it also dives deeper into color theory’s application in marketing, the emotional connotations of each color, and strategies for combining colors and building a brand color scheme. Also, you’ll find an interactive logo color picker that guides you to the best choice for your brand.