The Colors of Branding

As originally published on Forbes.com.

Color speaks without words. It’s a language we use every day — a universal tongue we all speak without opening our mouths but our eyes. We all attach value to different images, shapes, and colors. And so, the importance of color in branding is evident: It’s a transformative tool for saying a lot without saying a word.

The colors a brand employs in a logo communicate a value to consumers. This is something we take into deep consideration when creating logos or design work for clients. Colors share a lot about the character of a brand, its intentions, and its worth. Meditating on color can reveal your truth. And your truth is where your brand is. So, how do find “your color”? First, it’s important to understand perception.

Color Association

In the world of design, color alone has the power to cultivate a strong and true emotional connection with an audience. The visceral, emotional connotations attached to colors and their various shades are far-reaching and never the same. From one person to the next, one shade can have a million meanings unique to each individual.

When you see the color red without context, for example, a few things come to mind. Someone sees passion, desire or romance; someone else sees anger, defiance or danger. It’s an expressive color that holds attention captive. It’s not shy or subtle. So, it isn’t surprising that many brands utilize this color to underscore urgency.

Consider the color associations and connotations you want consumers to have of your brand. What do you want them to feel when they see your logo? What impression do you wish to make with the colors you choose? Maybe you want to convey trust, professionalism or loyalty. Perhaps your brand aims to be playful, energetic or bold. Let your brand’s intention decide on the colors you choose. You don’t want to send a mixed message to consumers with a logo that subliminally negates your brand’s motive.

Remember, color is not just revolutionary; it’s evolutionary — a kaleidoscope of cultural connotations constantly turning in an ever-changing zeitgeist of perception and trends. So, it’s important to choose wisely.

Expounding The Trend

In recent years, we’ve witnessed radical simplification in modern design. From icons and app tiles to logo overhauls of our most trusted brands, we’ve entered an all-new aesthetic era where complex design is a crime, and the minimalists are elite. And with this trend erupting around the globe, brands must follow suit or risk being antiquated.

If your logo isn’t reflective of consumers’ expectations or desires, what could be at stake? Trust and credibility come to mind — the kind that don’t take into consideration your product or service, but instead, where you stand in a landscape of what’s contemporary or informed by the world around you. In short, sometimes a logo needs to catch up to the brand. And sometimes a logo needs to catch up to its consumer.

The use of gradients in ads and logo design has become another big hitter in emerging design and color trends. Brands like Hulu and Amazon have employed color gradation in their logos and ads to captivate viewers in a new way.

But where should a brand draw the line on what’s trendy over timeless? Should a brand introduce gradients because the big players are using them well? Should a brand bind the feet of its logo and go sans serif like Burberry?

Finding your footing aesthetically as a brand should play into what’s happening around you, but it shouldn’t copycat a current climate in design just because it’s trendy. If a design or color trend makes sense for your brand, have at it. But if you’re compromising your brand to fit in or be fashionable for fifteen minutes, you should instead be looking at your brand’s identity as a north star and compass.

The Right Hue

There are often three colors you should concern yourself with for a scheme: a base, an accent and a neutral. Your base should reflect your brand’s most dominant trait. Your accent is the accessory and will be used second-most, after the base. Your neutral is mostly used as a background color for your logo (you may even have more than one neutral for different creative).

Once you’ve selected your three, produce your logo in different color schemes, and have them printed. Tack them all to the wall and take a step back. Observe where your eyes go. Dissect each one. Consider your product and the consumer you’re selling to. What makes sense and isn’t just a pretty color? Guaranteed, there’ll be at least one you immediately nix. Through the process of careful elimination, you may arrive at just the right one.

Arriving at just the right color scheme for your brand is a puzzle. Thinking critically about your brand, business, product, message, and consumer should govern the trajectory of your style and aesthetic. Finding the perfect shade or the most favorable accent color for your logo should be informed first by your brand’s intention and the consumer you serve.

When we produce a logo or packaging designs for a client, we present some designs with nuance and others with clear distinction in color that makes sense for the brand. We consider their industry and the solution their product or service provides — and we always consider their consumer. Think of all these things and close your eyes. What do you see? That’s your scheme.