Colour is such a useful tool to get right for your brand. The human eye can see 7,000,000 colours (source) but there are only 11 main colours: blue, black, red, pink, white, brown, orange, purple, green, yellow and grey. See my 11 colours series here.
COLOUR IS ONE OF THE FIRST PIECES OF INFORMATION THAT WE SEE
“The human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds… After visual input hits the retina, the information flows into the brain, where information such as shape, colour, and orientation is processed” (source) – all within 13 milliseconds – so colour is one of the first pieces of information we see – and once we see it, we have a reaction to it. People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products – and colour is a huge factor in this (62-90%) (Source) 84% of communication is expected to be visual by next year (source) if it isn’t already, so considering your brand colours in your visuals will keep you one step ahead.
COLOUR CREATES AN EMOTIONAL REACTION
Colours create an emotional response in us without us really thinking about why – some of that response is an association to something that’s happened to us personally – but a lot of it is down to the way that colour makes us feel – maybe because of meaning and symbolism, or maybe just because of the emotional reaction that that colour or those colours together creates.
Some of our perception around colour comes from our natural survival instinct -we have a fight or flight response if we don’t like it. For example, not eating red berries leads us to sometimes think of red as a warning colour or if we see a green bananas we know it’s not ready yet. We also have cultural influences which trigger emotions. Christmas for example is red and green, so these colours together will create an emotional reaction depending on our feelings about Christmas. We don’t all even have the same reaction to a colour, it’s very possible that one person will think of one thing and another will think of something else – there may even be a reason for this. I wouldn’t want to buy a red car for example because of an accident that happened with a red car when I was younger.
So colours have different meanings in different contexts. The shapes, geographical region, other colours, and different shades of colour can also alter the meanings of the colours and create different feelings. This website is great for discovering what people think colours mean – attempting “to quantify the association between colors and words”. Men and women also have different preferences when it comes to colour so thinking about this when you’re working on your brand colours is also really important. We all like blue best (men 57%, women 35%) with 23% of women preferring purple (It MUST be more than that, I know several women who are purple fans. It takes one to know one 😉 ) Purple, orange and brown are low on the list for men, and orange for women. Useful information to help you when you are targetting your business to a specific gender. (source) This means that when selecting colours for your brand identity – it’s important to think about the personality of your brand and select colours which support that as far as possible rather than to spend too much time delving into the meanings of colours.
One way to do this is to determine which season your business – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – and then choose colours which fit into that colour palette. I’ll do another blog/video about that as it’s a meaty topic.
CREATING A COLOUR PALETTE
Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent. (Source) When choosing your colours, think about how you can make an impact with your colour scheme – maybe having one stand out colour which is used for your logo, important areas or buttons, or for headings. Each colour should support the others and the palette should give an idea of your brand personality.
It’s also important to think about things like how much colour is used. If you use only one colour ALL the time then the brain will be under stimulated, however if you use too many colours then your audience will be over stimulated – this is why designers often recommend to use three to five colours overall and not to use every colour of the rainbow (or to do so sparingly) most of the time – Google, The Guardian and EBay manage to utilise many colours. It is doable. This is also related to how many times your audience has been exposed to a colour as the very first time that they see your colours will be the most intense reaction they have to them. After that, repeatedly seeing your colours as part of your brand identity will create a less intense reaction, but is still crucial to help them to know those colours as YOUR colours and therefore help you to become memorable.
Some colours just don’t work together and that’s very jarring. It’s important to get colours right and – just like all areas of your brand identity – make sure they’re working for you and helping to create the very best impression. The colours that you choose will also look different alongside each other. There is a study with two squares of 49 colour patches arranged differently. All the colours were the same, just arranged in a very different order – but one square looked bright on one side and dark on the other, the colours more muted and neutral – where the other square appears to have an even brightness and be more vibrant. Take a look here. So choose the colours in your palette wisely. Take your time, look at them in different lights and in different arrangements to find the palette that is easiest on the eye.
USE THE COLOURS CONSISTENTLY
Once you have all of your colours then you will need to find out the colour codes for each shade. You can use various websites for this, just upload your colour swatch or include the colour code that you do have to somewhere like imagecolorpicker.com where you can upload a photograph or url, or color-hex.com where you can input a colour code to get more of them. At a minimum you”ll need the hex code and the CMYK code for each colour. Hex stands for Hexadecimal which is a six digit, three byte number used to represent red, green and blue is for use on screen and CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black) and is for printing. You should ALWAYS use the same exact shade each time you are creating anything in colour for your business. This helps your brand stand out and be memorable through the colours that you use.
I’d love to help more people out with using colour in their businesses – let me know what colours YOU use in YOUR brand – and any questions that you have that I could answer in a future post.
Amy Purdie is the Brand Explorer. She can help your business become irresistible to your ideal clients so that they can’t wait to work with you.
Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.