You may not realize it, but significant research goes into the logo design and color schemes of your favorite brands. These aesthetic elements are not decided on a whim; the color palette, shape, font and even the line structures of the world’s most recognizable logos are decided based on simple psychology. Your personal branding shouldn’t be any different. Find out how the pros do it, and how you can apply the same technique to your resume, personal website, or side hustle’s branding.
It is important to keep in mind that color is often perceived based on an individual’s personal experiences and preferences, and that there is no “one size fits all” color based on characteristic association.
However, there are common trends around color perception that are nearly universal. A study called Exciting Red and Competent Blue confirms that colors influence how consumers view the “personality” of a brand.
For example, many people associate blue with trust, which is why most financial institutions use the color as one of their primary shades. It’s the same reason why lawyers recommend that their clients wear blue ties or suits to court, or campaign managers select blue ties or blouses for political candidates.
That said, it is also important for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition. So if other companies in your industry are using blue and red in their branding, perhaps you could try using blue and yellow. However, there is plenty of research to support the idea that it’s much more important for your brand’s colors to reflect the personality you want to portray instead of trying to align with society’s broad color associations.
Keep in mind that someone’s environment, particularly their cultural perceptions (like in Japan where green traffic lights are actually called “blue”), plays a strong role in their color associations.
Additionally, certain colors are often associated with gender. Perhaps the most controversial gender color association is that pink is girly and blue is boyish. But did you know that it used to actually be the opposite? You can learn more about pink’s fascinating history and how the change came to be by reading the study in Smithsonian magazine.
Interestingly, when another study polled men and women about their favorite color, the majority across both gender groups selected blue as their top choice. So you may want to think twice before assuming that pink branding will work well if you have a target audience of women.
However, there is an exception to the color/gender rule; millennial pink. Many attribute the rise in popularity of this color to the fact that it was the 2016 Pantone Colour of the Year (as Rose Quartz, but it’s the same color). Since this shade has a yellow base, rather than a blue base like your traditional “girly” pinks, it feels more earthy and sophisticated, thus making it much more gender neutral and modern. Progressive brands like Away, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Girlboss, Ted Baker, and Thinx have adopted this color as their own and often use it for their marketing and on their products.
Now that you’ve learned the history of some of the world’s most iconic colors, use the guide below for the ABCs and 123s of the basic associations with shapes, colors, and logo lines that you can apply to your personal branding project.
Symbolize partnership, strength, and resilience.
Well known logos with this shape include Starbucks, General Electric, Target, The Olympic Rings, BMW, and Burger King.
Symbolize danger, masculinity, and energy.
You’ll see American Airlines, Delta, Mitsubishi, Toblerone, Adidas, and Citgo using this shape.
Solid, reliable, balanced.
You can find this shape in the logos of GAP, YouTube, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, LinkedIn, and General Motors.
Diagonal Lines: Energetic, dynamic, exciting, rapid.
Examples include Nesquik, DELL, Nike, Pizza Hut, and Adidas.
Horizontal Lines: Tranquility, composure, calm, trust.
Examples include IBM, AT&T, and Nestle.
Vertical Lines: Stability, strength, balance, professional, cold, aggressive.
Examples include Cisco and Soundcloud.
Comforting, tenderness, care, protection love, movement, happiness.
Examples include McDonald’s, AirBnb, and Spotify.
Neutral (black, white, grey):
Balance, Calm, Luxury, Clean
Excitement, Youthful, Bold, Loud
Friendly, Cheerful, Confident, Casual
Optimism, Clarity, Warmth, Bright
Peaceful, Growth, Money, Health
Trust, Dependable, Strength, Calm
Creative, Imaginative, Wise, Regal
Calm, Vulnerable, Nurturing
Warmth, Comfort, Security, Natural
Multi-colored (like Google or eBay):
Serif – Tradition, Comfort, Reliable, Respectable
Sans-serif – Stability, Objective, Clean, Modern
Script – Elegance, Affectionate, Creative
Modern – Strong, Progressive, Stylish, Chic
Display – Friendly, Unique, Expressive, Amusing
See an infographic on fonts here.
How to apply these concepts
To your resume:
When crafting your resume, it is important to keep in mind these tricks to make your information ATS (Applicant Tracking System) friendly, but this doesn’t mean your resume has to be boring.
Stand out, particularly if you work in the creative or entertainment industries. It is important to create a personal logo for yourself.
This can be as simple as using your initials or your full name within a shape, or a more detailed design. Use the guide in this article to determine which colors and shape send the best message for your personal goals.
To your personal website/social media accounts:
The rules for branding your website and social media pages are similar to that of your resume. Create something simple that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Make sure your color scheme, use of font, and use of shapes are appropriate for your industry and the vibe you want to portray for your personal brand.
To create a cohesive brand feel, keep the look of the general design (color scheme, font, and images) the same across your resume, website, and social media accounts.
When designing a website, it is most appealing to the eye to have similar color shades in your palette (lime green, dark green, and teal or light pink, salmon, and hot pink). The top designers at Squarespace recommend using no more than three different colors and two different fonts to create a cohesive look.
There have been many controversial studies that have incorrectly associated red buttons with the highest conversion rates.
When selecting a shade for your call to action button, it is best to have it stick out like a sore thumb. So if your branding has shades of greens, it is actually best to have a red button. However, if your main color scheme is blue, your button should be orange, and vice versa.
You can find your perfect “stand out shade” by using this color wheel. Select the shade directly across from your main color scheme, and this should be your call to action button’s color.
To your side hustle branding:
What is your business? Are you a musician? An accountant? A florist? A social media manager? All of these business types will have very different styles of branding.
Take the time to assess the type of logo shapes and color schemes that will best represent the personality you are going for. Even if you are slowly growing your side hustle, you can still brand your website, social media accounts, and business cards.
Voila! You are now equipped to brand yourself like a pro. Put your new knowledge to good use and let us know how it works for you in the comments below.