The colour scheme used by an organisation in its branding can have a big impact on how recognisable it is to consumers. Many shades carry associations and some businesses have used certain hues for so long that they have become indelibly linked.

Cadbury’s, for instance, has used its distinctive purple colour scheme for decades, while the hues on Google’s logo are instantly recognisable. They are so closely related to a company that it is impossible to imagine them any other way.

A well-established colour scheme can become such a key part of brand recognition that any change can be jarring for consumers.

This was put to the test recently by Paula Rupolo, a graphic designer from Brazil, who swapped the colours in various brand logos with those of a direct competitor. For example, Coca-Cola’s distinctive red hues have been juxtaposed with the blue, red and white of Pepsi.

The logos are certainly not as easy to identify, as people’s brains are perhaps so familiar with the established colours that it is hard to compute anything different. It takes a moment to think about it, whereas usually it is easy to recognise a logo in an instant, even if the name of the organisation is not on display.

This exercise has proved to be a useful reminder of precisely how crucial colour is for brand recognition and putting across what a business is all about.

“Colours are the first thing you notice in a logo, what gets fastest to our brains,” Ms Rupolo observed.

“Then you read a logo’s shape, icons or typography.”

However, she pointed out that graphic designers need to work in the opposite way in order to come up with the perfect logo.

Ms Rupolo suggested that the shape be chosen first, with colour tests being carried out later on. Organisations should then “explore the possible readings you get from it” in order to see how it is perceived by a sample of consumers.

She went on to argue that “big and famous brands” effectively own the colours used in their logos.

“When you switch to a competitor’s colours, your brain notices there’s something that doesn’t fit, that makes you go ‘what’s going on here?’ and that’s interesting and a bit curious,” she commented.

Ms Rupolo concluded that the logos do not look better when the colours are juxtaposed in this way, partly because of the impressions conveyed by certain hues.

For example, red is one of several colours on the MasterCard logo, but dominates when this scheme is used for Visa. Ms Rupolo said red “doesn’t go with credit card credibility at all, but it’s acceptable when in a smaller percentage of the total colour predominance”.

This is a clear indication of precisely why it is so important for brands to carry out extensive colour tests when they are designing a logo.

Designers should ask themselves what feelings, moods and thoughts certain colours might evoke, so they can pick a colour scheme that is appropriate for their firm and the goods and services they provide.

How Much Does Color Define A Logo?, Fast Company

Posted by Robin McCrink