Yellow and brown are a great autumnal pairing — they’re the colors of fall leaves and Thanksgiving decorations. But would you ever consider using them together for your business logo? Stripped of that festive fall context, yellow and brown may seem like an odd color combination — but could they work for your brand?
In part two of our logo series that explores color pairs, we’ll examine the unique appeal and impact of yellow and brown.
The colors you select for your logo contribute to the design’s visual appeal — they make it look good. But that color scheme can also reflect your brand’s personality. Is your business kid-centric? Is it a luxury brand? Is it quirky and energetic? There are certain colors that can help convey these ideas to consumers. Color psychology is the study of how color influences perception, and it’s often used in logo design to enhance a brand’s messaging.
Before we take a look at what yellow and brown represent when they’re paired up, let’s see what they mean on their own.
Yellow is the color of sunshine and the classic smiley face, so it’s probably no surprise to learn that it represents optimism and hope. But this stimulating color also signifies logic, confidence, progressiveness and creativity. In darker, more golden shades, the color is said to embody luxury, abundance and prosperity. Though yellow can be a good match for any brand — companies as diverse as McDonald’s, Sprint and National Geographic have incorporated it into their logo designs — it can be overpowering, and is often paired with a less intense, contrasting color. Too much yellow, particularly bright yellow, can cause anxiety.
Yes, brown is modest and neutral, but don’t write it off as dull. Brown is a stable color and, accordingly, represents structure, dependability and support. While it may not be a natural choice for many (or even most) brand logos, it is the perfect fit for a financial institution like J.P. Morgan, and other businesses that need to be seen as reliable and secure. Of course, brown is more than just a no-nonsense color — it’s also warm, soothing and wholesome. Hershey’s and M&M’s use the color in their logos to evoke both the delicious chocolates the companies produce and a sense of comfort. Encountered widely throughout nature, brown can convey an earthiness that works well for brands associated with the outdoors.
Why yellow and brown?
Yellow and brown probably aren’t the first two colors that pop into most of our minds when thinking about logo color schemes. In fact, a recent color preference study showed that only 3 percent of people listed yellow or brown as their favorite colors. While that data may seem like cause for concern, it shouldn’t be — remember that a color’s popularity has very little to do with whether or not it’s appropriate for your brand. To see just how powerful and effective this color combination can be, take a look at these famous yellow and brown logos that represent their brands perfectly.
What the colors say about the brand: This is a company that you can trust.
Established in 1907, UPS is one of the largest parcel delivery services. The company also has one of the most recognizable logos: the brown and yellow shield. While most companies are happy to employ their brand colors on their website, packaging, and other promotional materials, UPS’s brown is so entwined with the brand’s image that the color was invoked in the company’s former slogan: “What can brown do for you?” The brown in the UPS logo represents security — your packages are safe with the company — and the bold yellow inspires confidence. A shield, in and of itself, represents honor and protection. A yellow and brown shield accentuates those noble qualities.
What the colors say about the brand: This company is wholesome and customer-friendly.
A Southern cuisine restaurant chain and gift shop, Cracker Barrel has a down-to-earth aesthetic that’s modeled after old country general stores. The company’s website states that they strive to greet everyone who walks through their doors with a “warm welcome” and “good meals at fair prices.” Their mission statement also references “simplicity” — it’s a quality they pride themselves on. Cracker Barrel creates an enjoyable experience for its customers by honoring a bygone era, and its logo affirms that. Brown emphasizes that homey traditionalism, while the yellow gives the design a pop of energy and joy.
What the colors say about the brand: This company values tradition but is forward-thinking.
Gevalia is a Scandinavian coffee roaster. Like Cracker Barrel, the company’s brand revolves around its rich heritage. The Gevalia website explains that the company has spent the last 150 years mastering the perfect cup of coffee, and they intend to continue their tradition in America. So in addition to being the color of coffee beans and a seemingly obvious choice because of that, the hardy brown of the logo is a reflection of the brand’s history and staying power. Yellow serves a practical purpose — as a brighter, contrasting color it helps the brown wordmark stand out — but symbolically, using the color could be a very simple way of conveying a sense of optimism. Coffee is usually enjoyed first thing in the morning, after all. And since the company is dedicated to developing the perfect cup of coffee, yellow could also be a reference to innovation; Gevalia is always looking to the future.
Put it together
Choosing a unique color palette for your logo may be the thing that makes your company stand out, so don’t shy away from unlikely or unpopular combinations like yellow and brown. As you have fun experimenting with unusual color pairings, remember to pay careful attention to what those colors might suggest to customers about your brand. Yellow and brown set UPS apart from its competition, but the colors also reflect the brand’s values and mission. Understanding color psychology will help you select a compelling color scheme that works for your brand.