For companies like Virgin Airways, IBM, and a host of "green" brands, the color they have chosen is no less deliberate, strategic and manipulative, than moves in a high-stakes game of chess. Color as a vehicle for power and influence is ancient. Take for example the Mayan civilization. Though much remains a mystery about Maya cosmology, anthropologists believe that they believed the world was flat and four-cornered and that each corner had a corresponding color: red - east, white - north, black - west, and yellow - south, with green at the center.
While your company may not have plans to erect a pyramid anytime soon, the legacy that you will leave can be greatly augmented by the careful consideration of color scheme in your brand design. This is particularly the case in our information-saturated and ADD-ridden society - color can aid in memory recall, stimulate the senses, and convey meaning at the most subliminal and primal levels. For this reason, the color choices of large companies are consistently based on color psychology, rather than an executive's favorite color.
A business' signage is the first point of contact and brand ambassador for customers or clients, consequently, corporations and savvy small to medium-sized business owners invest a proportionately appropriate amount on the color for their signage. Advertising campaigns like those of Apple's notebook, in assorted colors, display the persuasive potency of color in graphic design and consumer engagement.
To choose your foundational colors, you have to know the themes that certain colors evoke and match those to your company's theme. Spas and restaurants choose warm colors (peaches and light oranges, variations of reds and yellows) because of their soothing and relaxing qualities. Another element in proper color choice is visibility - how much or how little do you want to create. Contrasting a light color on a dark background or vice versa creates dimensional depth and attracts more attention than variations of complementary colors. Different cultures will assign different values to colors, but we'll look at some of the values that are universally associated with primary colors in the U.S.
Colors can be broken into two categories: warm and cold. Trustworthy, reliable, secure. Blue, commonly associated with these properties and is the color of choice for many financial institutions (Chase, Citigroup, etc.). Like waving a red flag in front of a bull, the aggressive, provocative, and compelling energy of the color red is a popular choice for companies that wish to make a striking and immediate impression. Associated with health, vitality, freshness and tranquility, green is an attractive color for companies that provide health-oriented products/services (i.e., organic products, holistic healthcare supplies and produce) and those that wish to capitalize on the good feelings the color evokes.
If you have an established color for your brand, you'll work with that. But if you don't, consider the emotional triggers that underlie the purchasing patterns of your particular clients. Is it a product/service that can correspond to desire (orange, yellow or red), or one that responds to sensibility and practicality (brown)? Does it involve a high degree of personal investment and require trust (blue), or is it something that can have healthy lifestyle associations (green and/or blue). Whatever your choice, make sure that the background color or graphic stays in its place - the background - and doesn't overwhelm the core message of your signage. And, for maximum elegance with minimum investment, opt for a black-white combination.
Sources: http://www.colorcombos.com/choosing-the-most-effective-colors-for-your-business-signage-article.html, http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/175428, and http://mashable.com/2013/06/09/color-schemes-business/
Sita Cole is the author of this article about choosing the right color schemes for your business sign. She has collected a variety of sources including http://www.bluepondsigns.com to write this article.