East vs. West – The Psychology of Color in Logo Design

Everywhere we look, we’re flooded with a wash of colors – in things as mundane as advertisements on park benches and in things as overwhelming as vivid marketing banners dominating entire sides of buildings. To the common passerby, these may seem random and based on whims; however, for the sharp business mind they are anything but.

Many studies have been done in psychology and business experiments on how people perceive the meaning of color and on the psychological effects of specific hues. The most successful businesses have converted the results of those studies into their active advertising campaigns.

Company branding can be used to instill a feeling of trustworthiness and confidence, or simply to capture a potential customer’s attention for long enough to get a message across. Logos are often the most important canvases for displaying what a company is all about; hence, the psychology of color is most useful when applied there.

It’s important to know that the same colors represent different things in different cultures. While color is psychological, it can also be highly cultural so its important to keep your audience in mind. A general psychological guide to various color meaning is standard across the board:

Consider the color red – powerful and attention-grabbing, in the Western world it is often used for things like STOP signs, to alert a driver and help him react quickly. It signals warning or danger, bearing a meaning with negative connotations to a Western audience. Meanwhile, the same red, when viewed by an Eastern one (such as China), can represent courage and loyalty, and often finds itself an indispensable part of celebrations. Depending on the primary audience to which your business is being marketed, using red may or may not be the right way to go – make sure to consider carefully.

The colors black and white have polar meanings in the West. Black should be used sparingly if at all, if your company logo is intended to convey life and peace – white would be better suited for the job. If you want to represent yourselves as strong and powerful, then black might indeed work. However, if you are targeting an Eastern culture, be aware that the meaning switch. Where black is generally symbolic of luck and good fortune, white is to be avoided as a bringer of bad luck and death.

Green has many positive connotations in the Western world, from good health to “green” energy. In the East, however, green is not a positive color, being associated with disease and famine in some places.

An internationally palatable color that can be used in advertising campaigns is blue. Although a bit dry to Western standards, it is highly regarded in the East and South where it suggests cleanliness, longevity and the soaring freedom of the sky. It’s important to note, however, that if your business is involved with the food industry, then blue generally isn’t a very good color to use. Especially in North America, where a blue logo will not lend itself to visual association with food. Studies have shown adverse reactions to consumers’ desire to eat when blue has been present, relative to other colors.

Various combinations of these colors can produce a surprisingly effective advertising logo or campaign banner, communicating the best aspects of your brand to multiple and varied audiences.

Vivid color combinations further make a lasting imprint on the minds of people who see it, which is of course beneficial for later possible conversions – at the very least, it could be the thing that pushes them to investigate further. Taking advantage of the psychology of color depends on what you wish to convey; and to whom.

Emily Parsons is the Brand Outreach & Marketing Coordinator at www.brandbucket.com – A graphic designer at heart, with years of experience in branding strategies. She loves helping startups find a name that represents their unique value. 

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