Logo Design: The Color and the Shape

by . June 5th, 2012

I know I just ripped the title off Foo Fighters’ 1997 album. But what can I do? I find the album’s title relevant to graphic design, particularly in logo design. If you’re going to look closely at any logo, it’s actually the color and the shape that define a logo’s uniqueness and memorability.

The primary aim of a logo is to be distinguishable and memorable to the public. Most logos designed today look simple yet effective in portraying the company they represent. Just look at logos from companies that in the food industry and notice the dominance of the colors yellow and red on their logos. These colors are used by companies because of their effects on human judgment and behavior, especially to appetite.
The Psychology of Color

There have been various studies regarding the effects of colors on a person’s performance, attitude, and behavior. One particularstudy shows how the colors red and blue affect a person’s performance in different tasks. It proves that colors, in one way or another, do have an effect on people.

Color Infographic from Print Media Centr via

You can check out more about different colors and their corresponding effect and meaning on Infographic: The Psychology of Color for Web Design

Companies have learned to use these psychological studies and have applied them in their modern branding. You’ll notice that different companies today align their designs based on classic and proven design tactics — from using red and yellow for the food industry, blue for corporate and finance businesses, and so on.

Shape and Details

We recognize logos by the form they take, next to that we remember the color normally associated with them. An ideal example would be the Coca-Cola logo. Every time we see the Spencerian script used on their bottles and cans we automatically remember the brand. Other examples would include much of the social websites that we use every day – from Facebook’s “F” on a blue backdrop to Twitter’s “T” on light blue and so on.

Logo Typography: Logo on Pico from Maniackers Design via

Pico – the typeface that was used to create Twitter’s logo, it has been modified to accommodate the hip and informative site that provides real time news and information.
Logo Typography: Logo on Pico from Aaron Hunt via

Facebook’s logo is from a modified Klavika typeface. It was tailored to make the whole look and feel of the logo more streamlined.

As companies and other entities invest in getting themselves and their products online, proper branding further becomes a necessity. As the web is a more graphic place than the real world, people will be more attracted to proper, compact, and well-designed logos that suit their lifestyles.

Color vs. Shape?

An important issue in creating a corporate logo is choosing between type- or symbol-based designs. There are different advantages between these two types of logos. We’ve featured an article before presenting how typographic and symbol logos work, and how a choice combination of both works for different companies as well. However, the color and the shape of a logo are inherent elements of a company logo. Since the logo will represent the breadth of the company, it will visualize the type of business, the philosophy, and the commitment of the company to its vision and goal.

Logo Design: Open University London Logo from David Airey via

An example from David Airey’s article, What Makes a Good Logo? the logo used above can be considered as a flexible and dynamic logo. Even without the color or accompanying text it still stands out as a logo for the Open University.

In creating a logo, the designer must always consider that his design may be used in different media by the company. These media may range from corporate stationery, such as business cards and letterheads, to print and digital advertisements, company products, and so on. In this context, the logo’s design must be flexible to the different constrains that these media provide.

Design for Flexibility

I’d prefer a logo that’s flexible and dynamic – a design that requires little to no alteration, and that is relevant to both time and the company’s target market. If you’re going to look at decades – or even century old companies, you’ll notice how most of them barely changed their logo. Ideal examples are GE and Levi’s branding.

Campbell Letterhead from via

Campbell’s Soups’ logo is so flexible it’s been used as a letterhead by the company. It even became part of a pop culture icon, The Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol.

Vintage Levi's Billboard from via

Levi’s iconic name and the red tab are easily recognizable even from afar and on different advertising media.

The choices involved in creating a logo will still fall on the designer’s hands. If he chooses to apply a combination of shape, type, and color, it’s his call. But a designer must also learn that his client will still have the final say on the logo’s final form.

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