Cynthia Salgado Design
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Your color palette matters

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As part of my design process I usually send my clients 2 or 3 options with variations in black and white. Once they have chosen the logo they like the most, I proceed to design a brand book or style guide as well as other assets such as social media kits or stationery sets.

One such time I did this I received feedback from the client saying she liked the black version. I explained that was a monochrome version of her logo, and most probably she is going to need it at some point as her business grows, but it wasn’t meant to be a logo proposal on its own. Her reasoning for requesting a black logo was an advice from her web designer, who said a set color palette is not recommended and that a good logo should be able to be reproduce in any color and still look good. I could not disagree more.

How should a “good” logo supposed to look like?

I'm convinced that the web designer was confused with sizes, as that is the first thing you learn at design school: a good logo should be able to be seen at any size, but be reproduce in any color? I'm sorry, but no. Color is the one thing that will make your logo stand out. It will allow you to communicate with your audience and even generate emotions from them. Color theory is a basic part of the design education, and this situation could have been avoided if the client would have hired a person to develop her brand, instead of thinking that a logo and a website are things that can be worked separately. Second, if a designer is advising a client to NOT use a color palette that designer has serious training to do.

A few examples of how big brands use their color palettes to communicate their values.

Big names like Google, Shell, Canon, etc, have specific colors that contribute immensely to build the image we have of them. In the past I worked designing merchandise pieces for these brands and they would always send a brand book that had to be followed to the t, and they were so right to enforce this: take a look at Google’s logo. They are primary colors, except for the “L” which is green, a non-primary color to indicate that sometimes Google doesn't follow the norm.


Let's not forget McDonald's which will be forever my favorite example: red and yellow create a sense of urgency and are associated with hunger as well. Would the effect be the same if the logo was just black against white? I don't think so. McDonald’s also uses black with their brand of coffee shops McCafé, but always combined with another color. In any case, the brand is so widely recognizable that they can afford perfectly fine to have a logo in black and white if they want.

Now, don't get me wrong: under the right circumstances black can be the central color and still communicate. But it will never be able to do that on its own: a color palette is necessary to support communication efforts, even if it's not explicitly shown on the logo. In the past, all these color talk was called “color theory” or “psycology of color”; nowadays and with the rise of the user experience field, it’s common to hear more about “emotional color”, which basically focuses on the same goal: to generate emotions on users through the use of color.

In short: your color palette matters. Your choice of color will influence your audience and you have the power to create emotions and communicate effectively.

DesignCynthiaColor, Color Palette