Branding is a key part of building a successful business. It’s all about the visual elements that make you stand out from the crowd. Done right, it makes you unforgettable.
Color in branding may seem unimportant, frivolous even. But it plays a huge role because it has an emotive, unconscious impact on people, affecting how they feel about your company. In this guide we’ll take you through the ins and outs of choosing branding colors that represent the impression you want to make on the world.
Whether you want to create a new logo or design business cards and other touchable branding, choosing the right colors can make all the difference when it comes to customer appeal.
Choosing brand colors doesn’t have to be intimidating. Knowing the basics of color theory and color psychology narrows down your choices significantly.
Color psychology looks at how each shade inspires different emotions. While there hasn’t been a whole lot of scientific research into this subject, the cultural impact and automatic associations people have can’t be denied.
Here is an alphabetical list of the most common colors and their typically perceived meanings. It shouldn’t be taken as a definitive guide, but an indication of general impact in contemporary Western society:
It is important to note that other cultures may have very different reactions to certain colors. For example, white is more typically associated with mourning in countries like China and Korea. What’s more, meanings associated with certain colors can change over time. In the early 20th century for example, blue was considered to be a more feminine color, while pink was seen as masculine. Nevertheless, this basic color psychology is a great starting point, broadly speaking.
While color psychology deals with emotional impact, color theory deals with how colors look in action. Knowing what colors do and don’t go together is important, because clashing colors are an eye-sore which puts people off.
Formulated by Isaac Newton in the late 17th Century, this represents a circle of colors arranged in a logical sequence. Newton discovered this structure when looking at a beam of light through a glass prism in a darkened room. He studied how the light split into specific colors. This forms the basis of how we use color to this day.
The Color Wheel is divided into three categories:
‘Cool and Warm’ can be seen by drawing a line in the centre of the Color Wheel. Cool colors are blues, greens, and purples. They have a calming effect. Warm colors are reds, yellows, and oranges. They’re bright and energetic.
‘Tint’ refers to making a color lighter, by adding white. By adding white to red, you’ll get pink. In contrast, ‘Shade’ makes a color darker, by adding black. ‘Tone’ is achieved when you add grey to a color, causing muted, less intense variations.
Now let’s look at how colors are applied harmoniously. Or in other words, how primary, secondary, and tertiary colors can be combined, matched, and contrasted in a way that is pleasing to the eye. This is known as ‘Color Schemes’.
These are the most common Color Schemes that achieve harmony:
Here are some examples of how brands have used color to make a strong impression:
What is one of the main things successful brands have in common? You can recognize them from color alone. This highlights just how important colors are when it comes to branding.
First, to get started, do some foundation brainstorming:
This is a collection of images that reflect the essence or mood of your brand. Pinterest makes it super easy, there are endless images there which you can easily arrange into different collections.
Add whatever inspires you, then narrow it down based on how you want customers to feel about your brand. Often it’s not about the actual picture, but about how it makes you feel because of the Color Scheme.
Checking out how your main competitors do things is an important learning exercise. And when it comes to their branding colors, you won’t exactly stand out if you choose the same Color Scheme as them. That’s where you want to make sure you’re unique.
You may have noticed that when it comes to color combinations, famous brands keep their brand colors simple. In fact, 95% of world’s leading brands only use one or two colors, while only 5% use three or more.
In some cases many colors can work, but for most brands you don’t want your Color Scheme to come across as too busy. It’s the same thing with good design, clean, strong simplicity wins the day
Let’s take a look at three mega brands we see everyday:
Notice the blue is a cool, calming color palette, conveying a feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism. It makes sense that a social media site that people use and share personal information with on a daily basis would want to promote these feelings. For this reason, many other social media sites, corporations, and banks also use blue in their logos (like Barclays, IBM, PayPal, Skype and Twitter).
The vibrant red monochrome of Coca-Cola’s branding is unmistakable. Not only does it strongly stand out among other soft drinks in the grocery store, it promotes a feeling of excitement, liveliness, and youthfulness.
This coffee chain’s deep green logo with its mermaid (or siren) is recognized the world over, despite the fact that it doesn’t even feature words. The green promotes a feeling of nature, which is in keeping with how the brand wants to be seen as promoting environmentally sustainable stores and ethical sourcing.
We’ve looked at the powerful, emotive impact that colors bring to your brand. You now have a good understanding of the Color Wheel, how to choose an effective Color Scheme, and how some of the top brands make a lasting impression. You also now have the know-how to move forward with choosing your unique brand personality.
The next step is to put what you’ve learned into action. Try our free Logo Maker tool to give your brand a stronger, more impressive look for the new 2020 decade. From there you can widen your market reach with touchable branding to make every meeting count — easily design and order affordable, high-quality Business Cards.