Colour is a vital element in branding - 4 areas to consider

Using colour is key to any brand’s success – colours evoke meaning and emotion. When used strategically, colour is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience and creating brand recognition.

Colour selection in design comes down to more than just the way it looks. In order to create an effective colour palette, you must first understand how it works holistically. Colour theory, psychology and balance all influence what makes a successful suite of colours. You then need to consider how your proposed palette aligns with the brand’s values, messaging, and target audience. 

Hands covered in paint powder, colour in culture

1. Culture 

Who are you trying to appeal to and in which markets? The colours used will send a very different message depending on your location. In Western cultures, red is the color of passion or danger. But in some Eastern cultures, like China and India, red represents luck.

It’s important to take into consideration your audience and any pre-existing cultural connotations that they may have to a particular colour, to ensure that it supports your brand message.

Colourful circles made of paper, colour theory

2. Theory 

Colour theory is a set of fundamental principles that guide how to create balanced colour combinations. You must understand these principles before creating an effective brand colour palette. The three primary colours are red, yellow, and blue. When combined, primary colours form secondary colours, tertiary colours follow, then tints, shades and tones.

A strong understanding of the theory behind your brand colours will ensure your branding is eye catching, cohesive and understandable.

Watercolour painting of a rainbow flowing from a persons head, colour showing emotion

3. Emotion 

People are drawn to certain colours in part because of how they make them feel, but colours can also cause negative reactions, meaning someone might avoid that brand. For example, in a certain context, greens can be related to mindfulness as it is calming and grounded colour that is connected to nature. In another, it could be related to money, jealousy or greed.

Common colour associations include:

Red: passion, power, love, danger, excitement 

Blue: calm, trust, competence, peace, logic, reliability 

Green: health, nature, abundance, prosperity 

Yellow: happiness, optimism, creativity, friendliness 

Orange: fun, freedom, warmth, comfort, playfulness 

Purple: luxury, mystery, sophistication, loyalty, creativity 

Pink: nurturing, gentleness, sincerity, warmth 

Brown: nature, security, protection, support 

Black: elegance, power, control, sophistication, depression 

White: purity, peace, clarity, cleanliness 

A collection of colour palettes all lined up

4. Palette 

The first colour you choose will be the brand’s primary colour, informed by your understanding of the brands target audience. This is where colour psychology plays it’s part. What emotion do you want your brand to convey? The answer will lead you to your primary brand colour.

One way to choose your colour palette is by using a colour wheel. Colour wheels are an illustrative graph that show the relationships between colours. Colours are organised by hue around a circle, with complimentary colours shown at opposite ends from each other. From here you have five routes to choose from to create your colour palette, broken down and explained below.

Analogous colour palette

Analogous 

Analogous colour schemes create a visually pleasing and calming display. For instance, the colour blue can pair nicely with both teal and green. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Analogous colour schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious.

Monochromatic colour palette

Monochromatic 

A monochromatic colour scheme is a one-colour scheme that is created using different tones of that one colour. Once you have chosen your base colour, you can use a colour wheel to help you choose different hues of that same colour, varying the saturation and tone of the base colour to pick out lighter and darker hues.

Complementary colour palette

Complementary 

At the heart of colour theory, complementary colours are the opposite hues on the colour wheel. In their most basic form, they are one primary colour and the secondary colour that is created by mixing the other two primaries. For instance, the complementary colour to yellow is purple, which is a mix of blue and red. 

Split complementary colour palette

Split Complementary 

Split-complementary is a colour scheme using one base colour and two secondary colours. Instead of using a complementary colour, two colours placed symmetrically around it on the colour wheel are used. The base colour is the main one, while the secondary colours should be used only for highlights and accents.

Triadic colour palette

Triad 

A special variant of the split-complementary colour scheme, with the equal distance between all colours, forming a triangle. All three colours are distributed evenly around the colour wheel, there is no clear dominance of one colour.

There are, of course, exceptions to these rules. It is important that your branding ultimately communicates who you are as a business. This could vary depending on the sector that you operate in, or if your audience has any specific expectations of your company. Branding is considered your business ‘identity’ and colour is a key element of this. 

If you’d like to have an informal discussion about branding, including the role that colour can play, please get in touch on hello@wdc-creative.com.

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