You may not realize it, but color plays a big part within your life. Our brains react to color on a very basic level, like how we associate red with things like fire, danger and passion, while we simultaneously associate colors like blue with sadness and rain. Color symbolism is real, and even thinking outside of the obvious, abstract ways we use it to parse meaning, it matters to us subconsciously more than we ever thought possible.


If you want a quick refresher, or if you’re wondering something like “what about brown or purple?” check out this website for a quick crash course on color symbolism. This again focuses on how we perceive colors in a basic way. These same standards can apply to a business setting. 99designs recently created an infographic flowchart that Hubspot recently posted. Think about your own business or brand and follow the chart. Do the colors it produced for you match your existing marketing?


Because colors factor so heavily into our subconscious decision making, and we know that this does affect business decisions as well, it’s time to reexamine your own use of color through the biggest branding dos and don’ts when it comes to color theory.


Do: Focus Group


You’d be amazed at how much you truly hear when you listen. Consumers can tell you if what you’re doing is actually hitting the mark, but there are obvious examples of businesses who didn’t think to listen to customers when it came to branding until it was too late. Do you think if Gap had focus-grouped their logo change in 2010 they’d have had the backlash they did?


Before finalizing any branding, it’s important to see what the people have to say about it. How does this relate to color? A person’s decision making is very much influenced by what they see visually. Create a logo in yellow and blue and you’ll hear two very different opinions about them when you show them to just one person.


Don’t: Go Too Far Outside the Box


The colors you use in your branding should fall in line with the theme of your business. Want to make a logo for your bold, innovative brand? Pick a bold and innovative color — red. Want to align yourself with information, intelligence and superiority? Pick colors like black, white and grey.


Logo Company has created a really great infographic that focuses on colors, brand meaning and existing logos that coincide with these two things. Certain colors evoke certain emotions, and businesses use this to their advantage. There may be exceptions to the rule, like Cartoon Network’s place among those other neutral, intelligent brands, but you don’t want to push the envelope if you don’t know what you’re doing.


Do: Compliment Colors


Some brands work well with just one color, a la Dell or Coca Cola. Others, however, like to use complimentary colors to get more bang for their buck.


Take fast food giant McDonald’s, for example. Their primary brand color is yellow, signified within their iconic golden arches. This gives their brand a very friendly and warm vibe. However, McDonald’s also uses red in their branding. These two colors simultaneously compliment each other while still conveying a brand message of warmth, hunger and bold flavors.


If your brand color base is yellow, consider other warm colors to go along with it — orange and red. Keep cool colors together just the same; a.k.a. green, blue, purple. Sometimes brands can get away with blending the colors, like Walmart’s use of trustworthy blue and welcoming yellow, but again: consider the meanings wisely before going crazy.


Don’t: Do Too Much


This advice goes two different ways. First, don’t overcrowd your branding with color. A good logo should have no more than two base colors. If you do use multiple colors in your logo, look to brands like Google and eBay. Despite using multiple colors, these colors are all very simple — yellow, green, red, blue. Nothing fancy and overwhelming that gives the brand a messy vibe.


Finally, don’t constantly redo your branding with different colors. If you read this blog and decide your brand vibe doesn’t work for you, great! Consider it a free pass. However, brands don’t often succeed when they make major changes more than necessary. Switching from color to color shows you don’t know your true brand message. Pick a color or two and stick with them.


Looking for more ways to improve your brand image? Or are you looking to do a complete brand overhaul? Learn what you need to do if you want to successfully rebrand your whole business.