What colour are you feeling today? Happy yellow, serious blue, or angry red? It’s a good exercise in how we associate colour to our emotions and perceptions. The same applies to how colour works in design - our ‘gut feeling’ uses colour associations to tell us the personality of a brand.
Developing a brand is about aligning the brand persona, the personality of a brand, with four main aspects: colour, fonts, iconography and a voice. A designer’s job is to create a visual brand that represents the persona, and one main aspect of this is colour.
Colour association is a big part of choosing brand colours. This connection is important to create a link between what we associate with a particular colour and what the company represents. What we see should tie in with what we get.
A clear example is Ikea. Bright yellow, a colour of happiness and fun, relates perfectly to the fast-paced environment of an Ikea experience. While tech companies, like IBM and Dell, opt for dependable blue. It’s no surprise that disruptive brands like Tesla, Airbnb and Netflix, who are aggressive entrants into their respective markets, favour red.
Exploring colour theory
When it comes to combining two or more colours, colour theory can help you get it right. But how does colour theory work? There are three elements to explore - the colour wheel, colour harmony, and the context of how colours are used.
The basic colour wheel is made up of the three primary colours which is then divided into secondary and tertiary colours. Colour harmony is what results when a combination of colours look aesthetically pleasing together, with the colour wheel determining what works and what doesn’t (see diagram).
One brand that uses complementary colours, those opposite one another on the colour wheel, is Irn-Bru. Here, orange, a warm colour, is combined with blue, from the cool spectrum, to create a bold contrast.
Colour by context
In most sectors, brands tend to opt for the same colour use. Blue is the most popular colour within healthcare and tech sectors, where dependability and trust is required.
When it comes to creating an environmental message, green is the favoured choice, used by brands such as Hello Fresh and Holland & Barrett. Green is our hard coded colour for anything that is good for the planet.
At the luxury end of the market, black epitomises style and wealth, and is frequently used for perfume and watch brands. Think Chanel and Rolex. While if you’re looking to be bold and youthful, like Coca Cola and YouTube, red is your best option.
According to a brand colour survey published by The Drum, which focused on 100 brands, blue was the outstanding choice, with red second and purple at the bottom of the pile. Blue is certainly the safe bet and is win-win on the gender front, as it's favoured equally by men and women.
Purple is more of a challenge. Although, Queen Victoria’s favourite colour, with its subsequent regal associations, has worked well for one of the most popular household brands. Cadbury’s is instantly recognisable as having more than a glass and a half of purpleness!
We all perceive colour slightly differently, so who’s to say what is the best combination? It’s a process of bringing together our knowledge of associations with design expertise to create strong brands that act as a visual identifier for businesses.
Breaking the mould
But who likes to play by the rules all of the time? Sometimes being disruptive works and can help your brand stand out from the crowd. Online estate agents, Purplebricks, strayed away from a traditional approach and went big with purple. A bold move seeing that it's the most unpopular brand colour, according to The Drum survey.
Whether you've got a conventional brand persona to portray, or you want to break away from the norm, colour has a big part to play on your brand's impact.
Do you want to bring your brand to life with colour? Get in touch to see how we can help add personality to your brand.