Posted on: 29 November 2016
What Does Your Brand Colour Mean?
The colour of a brand says a lot about who a company is. In this post, we’ll explore the psychology of colour and how brands use it to create a deep connection with their customers.
In design school, you learn about basic visual principles such as line, shape, texture, form, value, space and colour. In my first year of design school, we designed everything in black and white first, using all the visual principles except for colour. Colour can dominate all the other visual elements if applied incorrectly. From day one we were trained to be careful with colour and to consider how it impacts the design.
How do you choose the colour or colours for your brand? It depends on the emotional response you want from your audience and the brand’s voice. Each colour has a different psychological effect on the human brain, unconsciously forcing us to feel different emotions when interacting with the brand. The colours of your brand should reflect the mission and vision of the company they represent. There are also practical applications of colour to consider such as legibility/readability, contrast, eye strain (if you are designing a system consider that someone will be looking at the chosen colours for potentially hours). Outlined below are some of the most common colours and their meanings.
Red is the colour of power, passion, energy and strength. Red is one of those colours that can get out of hand quickly and become overpowering. When applied smartly red can be very effective, a common colour pairing with red is blue or grey. These cooler colours bring a sense of calmness to the boldness of a colour such as red. Red is often used in colour systems to indicate critical errors. One example of an organization that uses red in their brand is the Red Cross. The red cross symbol is universally understood by all people partly because of the iconic cross symbol but also because of the use of red. In this case, the red in the cross is used to indicate emergency and blood, a simple but effective metaphor using both shape and colour.
Orange is the colour of innovation, creativity, uniqueness and confidence. Use orange to make a statement and set your brand apart from the others. Colours that pair well with orange are other warm colours like yellow and red. Black and orange can also make for a bold high contrast palette. One example of an organization that uses orange effectively is Tangerine Bank. They’ve used orange as their primary colour to break away from the traditional banking brands who primarily use green, blue and golden yellow. They’ve used orange to represent that they do banking differently from the other banks, being “an innovative bank”.
Yellow the colour of summer, warmth, happiness, and energy. Yellow is a less typical brand colour but when used correctly it can bring life and energy to any brand. Combine red, yellow and orange to create a warm energized palette. One example of an organization that uses yellow effectively is Snap Chat. Snap Chat uses yellow as their primary brand colour bringing a youthful and fun feel to their brand.
Green symbolizes nature, wealth, growth, trust and health. Many companies use green to symbolize that they are environmentally friendly, but green can also be used to establish trust and calmness. Green and blue combinations create a relaxed, fresh palette. Green is often associated with positive actions throughout many visual systems. One example of an organization that uses green effectively is Presto. Presto uses green to create a positive connection with commuting, money, security and their slogan “Tap On. Ride Easy.”.
Blue is trustworthy, calm, and tranquil. Blue is the number one colour of choice for many brands. Blue is also a colour that most people either like or feel neutral about. Different hues of blue can create different emotional responses. A brighter blue is more refreshing and youthful versus a navy or indigo blue, which feels more mature and established. One example of an organization that uses blue effectively is PayPal, using blue to assure their audience that their money is safe with PayPal. They’ve used a friendly but sophisticated shade of blue with pops of brighter blue for a fresh but mature look.
Purple is the colour of wealth, royalty, and spirituality. Combining the tranquillity of blue and the warmth of red, purple is a rare colour that can be used to imbue the feeling of quality. Many companies use purple to package things such as chocolates and expensive liquors. One example of an organization that uses purple effectively is Cadbury Chocolate, using purple and yellow as their primary brand colours. The purple in this brand like many other food brands represents the quality and luxury of their products.
What colour or colours represent your brand?
You do not have to pick just one colour when creating your brand palette. Keeping your colour palette under control is not a simple task, over time brands change and new colours are added intentionally or unintentionally. Establishing a well thought out palette when the brand is created or being refreshed will help keep things in check. Adding a meaningful primary and secondary palette to your brand standards is an easy way to capture colour meaning but also a way to educate anyone who might be using the colours. Naming the colours in the palette adds a new layer of meaning to them, so take naming inspiration from the environment surrounding the brand (eg if your brand is representing hospitals you might name a colour “scrub green”). Branding exercises can also help uncover what your brand is and what colours might work for the brand and its audience.
Remember: the colours in your brand have a major impact on those who interact with it and impact how people perceive the brand and its values.