I have noticed that almost all fast food restaurants have the color red in their logo.

I live in Johnson County, an upscale county outside of Kansas City, where all businesses are only allowed to post one sign and the sign must be close to the ground, and most restaurants are classier than your common fast-food stops. However, in Siloam Springs, the streets are littered with fast food sign after fast food sign, all of them stuck up in the sky. Now that I’m in Siloam and pass by these signs every day, I’ve noticed that the color red is on many of the signs. As a designer, I know that colors create emotion and desires within people. The colors a brand chooses give an immediate and distinct impression to consumers, and almost every fast food restaurant uses the color red.

In Color Studies, we learned that the color red is associated with impulsiveness, mobility, warmth, and flavor. Visual Impact’s article, “The Psychology of Color,” details the way the color red is known to stimulate the appetite. It is no wonder that fast food restaurants use this color to attract consumers to make an impulse decision to pull over and grab a burger. It’s fascinating to stop and realize how many restaurants use red in their identity: McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Sonic, Chick-fil-A, Hardee’s, DQ, IHOP, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Noodles & Company, TGI Friday’s, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Popeye’s…

I think fast food restaurants use the color red to target the average American who is impatient, impulsive, independent, and always happy to eat. As a consumer, I don’t specifically think, “Wow, that shade of red is making me hungry,” because the psychology of color is a subconscious process. However, when I think about it, I realize I am attracted to warm colors like red when I’m hungry. It’s unappetizing to imagine McDonald’s being blue and green.

I also find it fascinating to consider the restaurants that don’t use the color red. Two of my favorites are Starbucks and Panera. Starbucks’ use of green gives it a sophisticated feel and definitely screams “coffee” instead of “burgers.” In addition, the green in Panera’s logo makes it feel clean and fresh, like their salads. Since red communicates impulsiveness, the lack of red in both restaurants makes them feel like places you go with friends and chat for hours.

Marketers must know color psychology and use it when communicating their brand to consumers. If restaurants employ red to excite people to eat, they will succeed as long as the appeal of fast food succeeds.