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The color scheme of your business’s logo is a critical part of its design — not only will it make your logo pop, it also increases brand recognition by more than 80 percent. But which colors should you pick for your new logo? Is it simply a matter of preference or is one color combination a better fit for your business than another?

To understand how color works in branding, we’ll be exploring different pairs of colors. Part one of this series looks at orange and black — just in time for Halloween!

Color psychology

We all have personal associations with different colors. Orange might remind you of a favorite sweater, black might remind you of your mother’s hair and so on. Because these associations are personal, there are specific, subjective emotions that orange and black trigger in you that aren’t necessarily felt by other people in the same way.

However, there are also more general cultural associations and assumptions that most of us will make when we see certain colors. Color psychology is the study of these general associations, and it examines how color affects human behavior, moods and feelings. In logo design, color psychology is often used to influence customers’ perceptions of a brand and also to support brand messaging.

To get a sense of what orange and black convey when they’re paired up, let’s first examine what the two colors represent and the emotions they evoke individually, as well as how each is typically used in branding.

Orange

Orange is the color of traffic cones and safety vests for good reason — it stands out. Companies looking to show off should consider incorporating the bright and vibrant hue into their logos. Orange is thought to represent playfulness, creativity, and excitement, which is why it is often used by children’s brands and companies hoping to appeal to young people, such as the kids’ cable channel Nickelodeon. Orange is also believed to stimulate an appetite or thirst — likely due to the color’s connection to citrus fruits — and is accordingly used by food and beverage brands like Fanta and Whataburger. Because it’s the color of sunsets and fire, orange can signify warmth. In branding, orange is linked to good value.

Black

Mystery and darkness are perhaps the most obvious associations with the color black — especially during October. But black also signifies elegance, timelessness, sophistication and prestige. As a result, you’ll frequently see black used for high fashion or luxury brand logos — Tiffany & Co., Chanel and Gucci are a few notable examples. Black is a strong color. It represents authority, and can give customers a sense of power, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why sports brands like Nike and Umbro have black logos.

Why orange and black?

Orange and black are a striking combination — just look at a monarch butterfly or a tiger to see how incredible this pairing can be. Exciting, energetic orange plays off of sophisticated and reserved black. This type of contrast can be very powerful, conveying nuances of your brand’s personality while evoking multiple emotions from your audience. Look at a few famous orange and black logos to see how the two colors work together:

Amazon

Amazon Logo

What the colors say about the brand: This company is dominant but approachable.

Established in 1994 as an online bookstore, Amazon has become an e-commerce leader. One of the reasons founder Jeff Bezos chose the company name was to imply size: the Amazon River is Earth’s biggest river and Amazon.com was to be the “Earth’s biggest book store,” per its original tagline. The black used in the company’s logo underscores the power and authority that Bezos was hoping to convey.

The orange arrow beneath the company name has a double meaning — it connects the “a” and “z,” implying that Amazon can deliver anything, from A to Z, and it’s a smile, with the tip of the arrow being a dimple. According to a press release issued after the logo was unveiled, the Amazon arrow-smile is intended to “communicate the company’s mission of being the most customer-centric company in the world, most notably by depicting the ultimate expression of customer satisfaction: a smile.” In this case, a playful color like orange emphasizes the customer-friendly image the company wants to project.

Discover Network

Discover Network Logo

What the colors say about the brand: This is a company that you can get excited about because it empowers you.

Black is perfect for a credit card company like Discover because the color represents power and stability. The term “in the black” means that something is financially sound. The orange, spherical “o” in the logo — reminiscent of a sun — adds energy and excitement, and emphasizes all the possibilities available with a Discover card.

Penguin Random House

Penguin Random House Icon

What the colors say about the brand:The company is timeless but fresh and innovative.

Book publisher Penguin Random House formed after the merger of two long-standing publishing companies, Penguin Group and Random House. Their orange and black logo was created in 2014 as part of the company’s rebranding. The black text is a reference to typewriter ink and the importance of the written word to the company. Because black can signify timelessness, the color here evokes the company’s rich literary history. The two strips of orange bookending the wordmark represent creativity, and the continued vitality of the brand.

Black & Decker

Black Decker Logo

What the colors say about the brand: This company produces powerful products that are suitable for everyone.

Black & Decker manufactures power tools, hardware, and appliances — products that allow customers to control their own home improvement projects or that make life a little bit easier. Aside from the fact that “black” is part of the company’s name, the color works for the brand because black empowers people. Orange suggests that the company’s products are for everyone; you don’t have to be an expert to use them.

Put it together

Looking at the examples of well-known orange and black logos, you’ll notice that they don’t strictly or even overwhelmingly favor one industry. And yet, the color combination is a fitting reflection of each brand because the designers paid close attention to what these colors signified.

When developing your logo’s color scheme, pick colors that appeal to you. Your logo is the face of your brand, and you need to be happy with the design. But if you want to make sure that your logo truly reflects your brand’s voice, persona and values, then you should understand the meaning behind every color you use. When you’re familiar with color psychology, your logo won’t just look great, but it will really resonate with your customers too.

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