Choosing a Corporate Color

Wendy CoulterCorporate Identification

In order to choose a corporate color, you must first have an understanding of what color is and how different colors affect people psychologically. The sun emits a wide spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, which then carries varying wavelengths and frequencies. These wavelengths can be high frequency– such as x-rays and infrared waves– or they can be low frequency– like radio waves and UV rays. Most of this very large spectrum is invisible, except for a small part detectable to the naked eye: light. Light is actually a combination of six colors that can be separated into its own component colors through a prism; the colors we see are violet, blue, green, orange and red. Medical science has proven that different colors have definite effects upon our psyche. They can change our attitudes and perception.


Violet is actually the first color on the spectrum (even though you might remember the saying ROY G BIV from elementary school) and has the lowest frequency of all the colors. Violet represents the highest quality a person attains: noble spiritual aspiration. And it’s always been connected to priestly ceremonies and royalty. Violet symbolizes creative force, beauty, inspiration and artistry. Energetically, violet inspires the receptive soul to express itself in art, music, spiritual ideals and selfless acts of love. It is the universal call to excellence that inspires great things and works of art. Its subtlety and fineness have a strong presence invoking the higher virtues in life. Examples of violet brands:

  • Hummingbird
  • Hallmark
  • Cadbury
  • Asprey


Blue symbolizes the communicative force: speech, messages and ideas. It relaxes and opens the mind to share thoughts and ideas. Sincerity, mental empathy and relaxation are associated with blue. It brings out affection, loyalty, harmony, sensitivity and inspiration. Blue reflects the meaning of cleanliness because it’s the color of water. The equally immediate reference to heaven and sea makes this color suitable for being connected to traveling. Finally, blue is the most important color in the visual perception of security and steadiness. Examples of blue brands:



  • HP
  • Facebook
  • Samsung
  • NASA
  • PayPal


Green is the third color of the spectrum. It’s the meeting ground between the thermal, expanding colors of red, orange and yellow and the electrical, contracting colors of blue and violet. Green symbolizes peace, compassion and renewal – the balancing forces. Its qualities are moderation, harmony, nurturing and diplomacy. Like nature, green can draw away energy from being too physical or mental and introduce a stillness that produces a contemplative atmosphere. Relaxation, rest and calmness issue from it as well. Green is a common sign for going ahead at traffic lights; therefore, it is an international symbol for approval and permission. Green tends to symbolize stability, endurance, serenity, healing & safety, and may actually help with concentration and growth. Examples of green brands:

  • Whole Foods
  • Animal Planet
  • John Deere
  • Starbucks


Yellow is the fourth color of the spectrum symbolizing mental force, clarity, perception, understanding and wisdom. Its qualities are confidence, curiosity and practical application of wisdom. Humor and mental detachment make yellow significant for bringing new life to ways of thinking and seeing. A non-conformist color by excellence, yellow enters contemporary graphics as the modern publicity. This is one reason yellow has stood for wisdom and intellect throughout the ages. Additionally, yellow lamps or glass windows have been known to stimulate the nerves of the brain and the body. Examples of yellow brands:



  • IMDb
  • Post-it
  • Best Buy
  • Ikea


Orange is the second to last color in the spectrum. This color is associated with the sun, and has a warming and invigorating effect. But, whereas red is stimulating to vital body and blood, orange is stimulating to the emotions. Orange symbolizes social force, emotions, attractiveness, joy and independence. Self-assuredness, amiability and constructiveness are its qualities, plus it is said to spread joy, happiness and emotional pleasure. It helps free inhibitions and lighten moods and is also considered the color of bravery. Orange is a useful medium for getting a strong impact from shelves or billboards. It is also favored by social people, providing excitement & energy. Examples of orange brands:

  • MasterCard
  • Shell
  • Harley-Davidson
  • Nickelodeon


Red is the last color in the spectrum and has the highest vibration. The color red is the coarsest and most physically vitalizing. It’s placed on the color spectrum just above heat vibrations, and it is heat giving in itself. Red symbolizes vital force, energy, passion, action, courage and vitality. It is associated with leadership, power, will and the body. Its qualities include spontaneity, impulsiveness and instinctual sexual forces. It stimulates activity, intensity and extroversion. Red brings out the revolutionary and leads us into affirmative thought and action. In medicine, we find the effect upon patients of red-colored electric lamps to stimulate, warm, excite and cheer. When related to food, red tends to stimulate the appetite. Examples of red brands:

  • CNN
  • Coca-Cola
  • Red Bull
  • Toyota

Of course, you don’t have to just choose from these six, there are other options

Neutral Colors

Neutral colors are either combinations of certain colors, the presence of all colors, or the absence of all light.

  • Brown– Brown is a combination of complimentary colors, colors are opposite from each other in the color wheel. This combination refers to combining the colors’ pigments– not their light. Hues of brown can be created by combining red and green pigments, yellow and violet pigments or orange and blue pigments. Brown is the color of earth and holds us to natural and materialistic thoughts. Brown symbolizes the earth, nurturing, contented sensuality and productivity. Passive, sensual, fertile and generous qualities are associated with brown. Dependability and honesty at its deepest roots is conjured by the infinite hues and tones of brown.
  • Gray– Gray cannot be achieved by any combination of light. Gray, by definition, can only be created by combining amounts of black and white pigments; thus, the number of possible hues are nearly infinite. Gray is neutral and useful as a background to other colors. Gray points out qualities such as reliability and longevity of a practical product. Gray is important in the design of fashion, as it is both minimal and neutral.
  • White– White is the combination of all colors in the spectrum. It absorbs all the rays and is, therefore, cooling and restful. White symbolizes purity and insight. It’s elusive nature provides serenity and the essence of perfection.
  • Black– Black is a complete lack of color. However, it compliments all of the colors and is warm, although still neutralized. Black embodies the elegance and appeal of high quality products. It’s been used to reflect the image of sober refinement, give stability and provide security.

Colors are of the deepest significance to us throughout all phases of our life. They have more influence on us than we can possibly imagine. If we use them intelligently they can help by strengthening, soothing and inspiring us.

The Power Of Color

To better understand the power of color, we can take a look at the research done by Dr. Morton Walker and Carlton Wagner, a founder of the Wagner Institute for Color Research and theorist behind “classifiers” and “declassifiers”. Classifying colors narrow the appeal of a particular product because the color or colors have a subliminal meaning to people. They can also elevate the status of a particular product or narrow the market for a product. Declassifying colors broaden the scope of a particular product because of the broad appeal of the colors. Unfortunately, this may also “cheapen” a product. Classifier colors include: Forest Green – appeals to the wealthiest 3% of Americans; may cause rejection in others; generally signifies “the best” and raises the price of goods Burgundy – appeals to the wealthiest 3% of Americans; may cause rejection in others; raises the price of goods Bluish red – appeals to women Yellowish red – appeals to men Blue – tends to make people eat less Declassifier colors include: Orange – draws attention; is informal and indicates that a particular product is suitable for everyone; used to make an expensive product appear less expensive Yellow – draws attention the fastest, stops traffic and can sell a house; indicates cheapness and a temporary quality; splashes are cheery, but a mass of yellow can produce anxiety and cause tempers to flare Red – makes people unaware of how much time is passing and is widely chosen by casinos and bars; makes food more appealing and inspires people to eat more Gray – tends to move people or products up the socioeconomic ladder American consumers also have favorite colors. Their favorite colors, ranked in order, are: 1. Blue 2. Red 3. Green 4. White 5. Pink 6. Purple 7. Orange 8. Yellow Even the color of our cars matter and can impact our spending. Black and brown trucks sell the best, they symbolize sturdiness and reliability. Red or yellow care indicate adventure and boldness while gray, silver, and light green indicate the opposite– moderation. Dark blue or black symbolize a “touch of class”, while earth tones, light blues, greens and gold represent something more practical. Even food can’t escape color theory. White is an excellent color for restaurant decor and food items, as it reminds people of cleanliness. Brown is associated with charbroiled steak, rich chocolate cake, nuts and whole grain bread. Brown is an excellent color to use in packaging food. Blue is probably the worst color to use around food, it acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Black is also a bad color for food. Red and pink (a derivative of red) are appetite enhancers. Obviously, your brand colors are going to have a powerful impact on your customers perceive your business, so you should choose them carefully.

Choosing Colors For Maximum Impact

Choosing your brand’s colors is easy when you know what you’re trying to communicate– just don’t go over board. One of the earliest steps you take during the branding process is building your brand personality, you can use this personality to determine your color scheme.

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