Creating the Right Color Palette for Your Brand

Color plays a big part in your initial impression of a brand, whether you are aware of it or not. As we have written about in the past, color matters and keeping consistent and true to brand is important. It affects the way your brand is perceived, helps people recall it from past memory and even has the power to attract people to your company (or not…).

Coming up with the correct color palette for your brand is often challenging for new start-up companies or those navigating a rebrand. What color best represents the tone of your business? What colors go well together and how many should you have? Do those colors translate well into all applications of your logo and across all mediums you will produce them on? How do you utilize your chosen color palette to help your brand stand out?

Designers who are informed about the principals of color psychology use color as a powerful tool in their arsenal to help with communication and to influence behavior, action, mood and to tap into the emotion of target consumers. Color can help on the path to get your customers to see and feel what you want them to feel and do what you want them to do.

Let’s run through just a few example colors using color psychology and some basic color associations:

Yellow

The color yellow is commonly associated with happiness, cheer, warmth, curiosity, and positivity. This color stands out and commands attention, which is why you see it used for many road signs and things like taxis. Men especially, have been found to think the color yellow denotes childishness or lightheartedness so if you are launching a company that sells higher-end products for males like a sexy new brand of sports car, high-fashion suit or watch line, yellow is not likely the right choice for you. If you are creating a logo and branding scheme for a daycare, yellow would be a safe bet to incorporate into your company’s branding scheme.

Blue

The color blue is often associated with loyalty, dependability, calm and trustworthiness. Think about many of the bank logos that you know. Many of the most popular bank branches have incorporated the color blue into their branding (Chase, Citibank, Bank of America...). Some of the major social players we discuss often have chosen this color, which can only be assumed is due to its association with stability and trust. We are talking Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Interestingly enough, blue has been known to be an appetite suppressor so it is commonly avoided by restaurants who are well-versed in color theory.

Red

The color red is associated with more intense things like fire, blood, danger, aggression, action, adventure and power, but also has a softer side with associations like love, passion, energy, excitement and desire. Red is often used on things like sales tags to grab attention. The color red has been known to stimulate appetite. This makes it the popular choice for brands like McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Kellogg’s.

There are obviously a whole range of colors and related associations with each of those.  We simply wanted to present a few as examples today. The power of color in your branding efforts is often discounted as irrelevant, but countless hours and dollars have been spent studying the effect color has played in reaction and behavior of consumers.

So, how do you put this into play? It is one thing to read about color psychology and the different things associated with each color, but an entirely different thing to put it into play and chose the color scheme for your brand. What are some ways you could put this into practice? Think about building an inspiration board, either on a physical poster (mood board) or on Pinterest. Pick a few colors and then search out images that utilize them. Pin those to a board or several boards, grouping together colors you think may go well together. As you go through this process you will likely notice that you tend to gravitate towards a certain color family more often than not. Do those colors make sense based on your color psychology research when it relates to your company and brand?

Once you have pinned a decent number of inspiration sources, pull a handful of colors as your initial color palette. Don’t stress! There is plenty of room for tweaking down the road.

Can you get help from awesome apps or programs like Adobe Color CC or Adobe Capture CC? Adobe Color CC is a helpful resource that allows you to look through different color rules, create/save color palettes, and glance through pre-existing color palettes for inspiration. Check the "Explore" tab for more popular and most-used. Adobe Capture CC is a quick and easy way to take the primary colors from a natural scene and get a color palette.

One of the biggest mistakes commonly made with less experienced color theorists is not including both light and dark tones in their palette. Creating a business that sells custom hand made bows for baby girls through your new ecommerce store? It may seem like sticking to pastel pink, purple and yellow is the way to go. The problem with this is that this palette lacks a contrast color. A strong and well thought out palette includes a balance of lights, mediums and darks. If your first pass does not include any darker tones, for example, add black as one or your colors (or an alternate darker color). Don’t have a lighter color? White can be a great option to complement any palette.

Your final branding color palette should include an even mix of light, medium and dark tones. Then select 1-3 dominant colors and then designate which will be your accent colors. Typically you will not use all colors that fall into your color palette in every logo application, collateral piece, website page or other application. Because of this, it is important to determine colors that should be used most often. All of the colors are important to establish so that anyone who is applying your branding to a specific application will be aware of the acceptable color choices to remain true to brand. Not sure where to begin? Contact us to discuss your business and begin a well thought out brand strategy.