Having 4 colors in logo (like Google, Microsoft and eBay), for which kind of companies does work too?

  • Google, Microsoft, eBay (and some other corporate companies) use 4 colors in their logos: Blue, Red, Green and Yellow.

    Logos from: Google, Microsoft, eBay

    How does it help their branding? And for which kind of companies does it work. too?

    Note that a very simple answer is "there are only four colors!"

    @JoeBlow Are you sure? I guess it depends on the definition of "color", but when I look at the whole spectrum of visible light, it appears to me that there is an infinite amount of wavelengths, hence an infinite amount of visible colors. The fact that we can recreate most (not all!) of them by mixing four base wavelengths and tricking our eye does not mean that there are only those four colors...?

    @FlorianPeschka We only perceive variations in four colours, and luminance (white/black). Our visual system interprets two sets of opposing colours, that is why we don't perceive yellowish-blues or greenish-reds. Of course, linguistically we've devised words to describe variations in those colours. (Pink is a washed-out red, orange is reddish-yellow, purple is reddish-blue etc.) I think that's what Joe means.

    Illuminati confirmed?

    Struggling to see the UX angle here...

    Interesting observation, but I'm voting to close as **too broad**. This question has 10 separate questions, many of which are barely related to each other. Whether they're all on topic is pretty dubious, but the ones that are on topic (and won't lead to subjective, open-ended answers) should be split into separate questions.

    They can mea whatever you want them to mean.

    why close it? the answer from Tohster is spectacular!! open, open!

    @JoeBlow Don't get me wrong I like any questions delving into color theory and I love tohsters answer but this question simply doesn't fit in UX. This question is much more related to marketing and brand recognition, I doubt you can ever ask a user "What enhanced your experience on this site?" and have them respond "It's logo has those 4 colors in it"

    It's a tricky one. I think it's very dangerous on these sites to **turn away good questions** - is this site in beta or? Of course, that is a broad philosophical question for these sites, and it's "not my site!"

  • tohster

    tohster Correct answer

    6 years ago

    There are several design reasons

    1. The colors are complementary - The four colors are roughly evenly spaced across the color wheel, which is a basic approach to creating complementary colors. Technically, this approach is called using a tetradic color palette. For more, you can read about color theory. enter image description here

    2. Colorful palettes create a sense of openness, diversity and optimism, which are positive for a consumer brand. The following chart shows some of the alternative approaches to using color to create user brand experiences:

      enter image description here

      • With color selection, often the qualities/attributes communicated by color are subjective, but the side-by-side chart above is helpful because it allows you to see the difference in "feel" between different palettes.
    3. Color is excellent for global brands. There are several reasons for this.

      • Using a diverse and bold color palette helps brands to communicate an open approach to global cultures, race (skin color), preferences, and ideas.
      • Using multiple colors allows brands to avoid cultural taboos that may arise from focusing on one specific color. For example, red may symbolize luck in the east but "warning" in the west. Green may be patriotic in Ireland but forbidden in Indonesia.
    4. Color stands out - For consumer brands which advertise on TV, billboards and multimedia, a colorful brand helps a logo stand out for attention in a sea of other brands consumers are exposed to. enter image description here


    It may help to see a side-by-side comparison of colorful logos vs monochromatic logos. Here are some prominent global brands using colorful and then monochromatic colors.

    enter image description here

    • You will see that the monochromatic palette communicates a sesne of prestige, seriousness, neutrality and focus, whereas colorful palettes tend to communicate a sense of playfulness, openness, informality, and creativity.

    • Note that visual layout often mimics the color palette....the logos on the left have deliberately dissonant layout...rough edges, irregular shapes or abutting characters. These are all designed to enhance the sense of playfulness that the color palette communicates.

    • Although it's a subject for a longer post, I deliberately included the "old" and "new" versions of the Microsoft and Apple logos....you can see how the brands have evolved their color messaging as Microsoft has sought to become a friendlier global consumer brand and Apple has evolved into a premium/aspirational consumer technology company.

    "Colorful palettes create a sense of openness, diversity and optimism" = do they really? I know that sounds nice and something I'd hear in a brand pitch meeting. But it also sounds a like like PR speak. :)

    I'm failing to see any pattern at all here. Especially with the brands in item 2. What about Cartoon Network is "Balanced Calm and Neutral"? Or what of Exxon screams "Excitement"? Seems like a lot of force fitting here. You can spin the color of clack of color or the presence of certain colours any way you want.

    FYI, some trivia on some of those color logos. The original apple logo had multiple colors to be seen as luxurious. At the time it was very expensive to manufacture those logo emblems in so many colors. NBC's logo was also one of prestige, as they used it to show off the (then new) 'color' broadcasting. In otherwords, the use of color was *to communicate a sense of prestige*

    @Brad yea, the rainbow is impressive, but I think one could rotate through all those 'meanings' and it would sound just as plausible. (Also, I love that the Hooters logo supposedly means "Cheerful Confidence" :)

    Again, as I pointed out in the answer, color theory is ALWAYS somewhat subjective. I have never been to a brand meeting that didn't involve some one or more horrible arguments. But subjectivity should not be confused with validity. Many people think the Mona Lisa is a mediocre work of art, but it would be an error to value its artistic merit at $0. The brands above are all successful and most (especially the consumer brands) have panel/testing data to support their design decisions on logos.

    @DA01 do you think a red Google logo would be as popular as the colorful logo? You are just one voice, and a classic trap in brand color selection is to listen to one voice rather than think of consumers in proper demographic segments. The decisions need to be made based on normative behavior, not the subjective voice of one critic. in the same way, color preferences are almost meaningless when N=1 in a sample, but can be very meaningful when N=100,000 (or less, depending on absolute statistical significance)

    @tohster I'm certainly not arguing these are "bad" logos I'm just saying that even a good logo can be good for any number of reasons and there is nothing inherent about any one colour that always conveys the same emotion. I mean some of these have links to their physical product: Welch's is purple because grape juice is purple not because they are creative or wise; Firefox is orange because foxes are orange not because the browser is inherently friendly; National Geographic has a yellow border on their magazine and always has but they are not innately optimistic.

    I think it is false to link these colors and logos. Google would probably be just as popular with a black logo. They are popular because they make decent products not because their logo has 4 colours. Did IBM fall out of favor in the PC world because they refused to be "Big Rainbow"?

    @Brad, absolutely. There is nothing in this answer that says that monochromatic palettes are bad. On the contrary, if you look at the last figure the brands on the right are extraordinarily successful and may very well represent larger market capitalization than the ones on the left. The decision around color is not based on platonic absolutes, but rather on what the use of color does for a particular brand. Chanel and Benz have been phenomenally effective at using deliberate minimalism in their brands.

    @Brad, actually I'm VERY familiar with Google and they did do at least one test on a monochromatic logo and the results were terrible. The colors on the Google logo are actually quite hard to work with in UX because they look awkward with anything except a white background, so Google has had to work pretty hard in UX to design around their colorful logo because they know consumers like it.

    @tohster I don't know that color would make a huge difference to the 'popularity' of the google logo. The popularity of the google logo has more to do with the fact that it's the google logo. In other words, the success of a logo is typically more in the hands of the company itself. Like Brad says, though, I'm not arguing that the logo is good or bad with or without color. I'm just saying that the 'color x means y' is often just mostly nice sounding BS said by the person trying to sell the logo. :)

    Also, regarding Google, remember that the colors from the original Google logo...which was when it was a student project. The colors were likely chosen because the person that had to make a logo for it liked the colors. :)

    @DA01 it's a good point that, while lots of money has been spent recently on Google logo UX, the logo has basically been unchanged for the last 18 years. It would seem (to someone on the outside) that most of that time is spend justifying prior decisions.

    @Brad I think a big part of our job is often 'justifying prior decisions'. :) That's not necessarily bad, of course. Part of our job is to create, part of our job is to sell what we create.

    the "logo rainbow" thing is amazing!!!

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM