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How to choose the right colour for your brand

When it comes to identifying a brand, colour plays an important part. Would the Starbucks logo be as instantly recognisable if wasn’t green? Would you notice the ‘Golden Arches’ of Macdonald’s if they weren’t yellow?

There are no accidents when it comes to the way big businesses present themselves to the world. Every logo and specific colour is carefully considered and analysed for the impression it gives and the emotions or reactions it is likely to evoke. An exact palette is agreed for use in everything to do with that business, from painting the offices to the design of marketing materials.

According to the Institute for Colour Research, it takes the average person less than 90 seconds to make a judgement about a new product, person or even place – and colour affects over two-thirds of how that decision is reached.

There are other factors that shape how we respond to different colours too, of course, such as personal experiences or cultural upbringing, but generally people have similar emotional reactions to certain colours:

  • Blue is seen to represent honesty, trust and dependability. Three of the major social networks – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – all have blue logos, along with Barclays Bank, Visa and Boots the Chemist.
  • Green evokes thoughts of the outdoors, health and goodness. Holland & Barrett, Land Rover, Barbour, Greenpeace and Tropicana are good examples.
  • Red is urgent, bold and sexy – it denotes high energy. Think of Ferrari, Red Bull or Levi. And, of course, Coca Cola – one of the most recognisable brands in the world.
  • Silver is sophisticated and indicates class and aspiration. The Apple logo is perhaps the most prominent example in the world today, and many car manufacturers also choose silver as their primary brand colour.
  • Black suggests elegance, power and sophistication – there’s the BBC, Chanel and Tiffany & Co, not to mention the much-coveted American Express ‘Black’ card.
  • Pink is fun and feminine – Mattel’s Barbie just wouldn’t be the same in another colour. It’s a popular colour for make-up brands, too – Benefit and Eyes Lips Face use a lot of pink.
  • Purple has connotations with royalty and is associated with quality and superiority. Popular examples are Cadbury’s, Yahoo and Hallmark.
  • Orange and yellow are easy – they evoke thoughts of fun, warmth, enthusiasm and optimism. Think of Fanta, Nickelodeon or, of course, Macdonald’s.

With so many emotions in play, no wonder then that colour plays such an important role in marketing. Every time you ask your graphic design team to create an advert or an image for your social networks, you need to carefully consider the impact the result will have on the psyche of your intended audience.

It makes sense that your graphics and images will follow your chosen colour palette – after all, consistency is key when it comes to establishing a business’s identity in the minds of its potential customers. But how do choose?

Firstly, you need to think about your brand’s tone and feel. Look at the list of colours above and their connotations – where does your business sit on that spectrum? That’s your starting point.

Then, consider the following tips:

  • Start with one colour that fits your style. If you already have a logo, this is likely to be your dominant colour. You can then add another main colour, a secondary colour and a fourth shade that will act as an ‘accent’ colour.
  • If you need a little inspiration, your graphic design team will be able to help. Alternatively, take this quiz and then take a look at Palettab, ColorHunt or Adobe Kuler for some great ideas on complementary colours.
  • Try not to use more than four colours. You can still add variety with different shades or tints, but too many competing shades looks messy and is confusing. Your graphic design service will be able to advise you.
  • Repetition is key when it comes to establishing your brand so make sure you use the same colours across all your marketing – printed materials, website, social channels, advertising and any other images and graphics. Create a style guide to ensure this happens every time – at Designs Unlimited we have a simple brand guideline briefing document that we use as part of the process when you join us.
  • When deciding on your colours, don’t forget to bear in mind those used by your competitors. You want to avoid confusion and stand out from everyone else.

When you brief your graphic design service about a new image or advert, what you get back from them is often only as good as the information you can provide. Making sure everything is in place from the start will save you – and them – a great deal of time and ensure they have the best chance of producing a finished product that will delight you.