Tying your brand to a specific color is a wonderful way to increase brand recognition. Think of McDonald’s golden arches, or Coca-Cola’s red can. As humans we are hard-wired to respond emotionally to color. But do we realize how much color matters in logo design?
The color red has been proven to arouse your appetite when seen. Many restaurant and food companies use red as a the primary color for their logo design (I’m looking at you McDonalds, Wendy’s, Bojangles, KFC, Red Robin, etc. etc.). You’ll notice many of these logos use red as background color, giving it more coverage in the design. So what happens when you start inverting colors? Is the red just as powerful?
We’re inverting colors on 12 famous logos, not all of them use red. Think of this as an exercise to show how important of a decision color choice is in your logo’s design. Some logos will be affected more than others. I’ve placed the originals logos on the left, inverting colors of the ones on the right. Let’s take a look.
INVERTING COLORS ON FAMOUS LOGOS
There’s something to be said for using a light color on a dark background. Notice how the original golden arches seem warm and inviting, as opposed to the red arches. They seem almost harsh against the broad yellow background.
We’re used to seeing the blue being dominant and the red as an accent. Using more blue makes it seem calm, soothing, and specifically contrasting to their biggest competitors, Coca-Cola. Switching to more red makes Pepsi seem more aggressive. This could work, we’re just not used to it. It would be fun to see if the general public noticed the swap if it were unannounced.
The Home Depot logo is always seen as orange on white. When used on a colored background, they add a white outline. Swapping colors out doesn’t seem like such a harsh change. Orange is seen as loud, energetic, and fun. I think in the end it was a wise choice to keep the square orange and the text white.
Raymond Loewy introduced this iconic design in 1971. It’s easy to see that this doesn’t work when inverting colors. The red is harsh on the eyes in the center, with no support from the yellow on the outside. The original darker color (red) on the outside and lighter color (yellow) on the inside is an obvious choice.
Now this could work. Yellow is bright and pushes the blue logo forward when inverting the colors. I think that’s the advantage of the original design though, that the yellow oval is contained within the blue background.
Kodak gives me a completely opposite reaction than the similarly colored Shell logo. I actually think surrounding the yellow Kodak with a red background softens it a bit. Either version would work for me.
The panda is easily identified when black on a white background. It follows the color pattern we’re used to seeing on pandas. That recognition is lost when you change out the colors. The panda becomes ghostly, and is still a bear, but it’s not as recognizable. Easy choice with the original color combo.
John Deere crates top-notch farming equipment. They are just as famous for their specific color “John Deere Green.” The title is lost as yellow when you switch up the colors. But the trademark deer stands out well. In the end it means less of their famous “John Deere Green,” so I vote the original colors win out on this one.
Facebook blue has definitely become a thing. It’s used as headers and text on Facebook’s page. You would think they would try a white version of their “F” logo, but we can see why they don’t. It loses its clean look by taking away the white background. Times like this it’s best to use a thin white border and keep one, unified color for your logo.
This switch just doesn’t work on any level. The white gets lost, the secondary text “Motor Cycles” is too dominant, the orange gets washed out against the white background Did I miss anything? Harley Davidson made the right choice the first time.
Remember their slogan “what can Brown do for you?” Brown can leave their logo as is. Usually I’m all for a lighter color with a darker border, but the brown and gold are so closely warm that they get muddled up in that orientation. That’s why color experimentation is a good thing. What we expect doesn’t always work out so well when applied.
This is another case of “yeah it still looks good, is recognizable” but it loses its symbolism. Batman is tied to the night. Bats are typically dark in colors. Using a bright background kills the symbolism of shadows and fear. Plus bats aren’t yellow. It’s not as bad a change as the WWF logo, but just doesn’t work well with its intended metaphors.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
I hope this little exercise will show you the importance of choosing the right colors for your logo. It’s more than just what looks good. You have to consider the background, the intended symbolism, and real-world associations with your logo. The wrong color combination can tank a good design. Research color theory. Find out what your target audience would respond to. Look at different color combinations.
Do you have any logos you would like to see by inverting colors? Something interesting? Let me know in the comments, I’ll see if I can do an update!