What is Your Brand Identity?
Target has done wonders with its red color, which has a youthful and energetic personality. Nevertheless, red wouldn’t work for a company like Casper, which cultivates a brand personality that’s calm and relaxed, signifying a good night’s sleep.
It’s easy to select your branding colors if you understand what you want to say. Building a brand begins with determining your brand’s personality. Your company should be viewed like a person: who are they? What do they value?
In order to determine what colors will work best for your brand personality, you need to determine what your brand’s goals are. Learning how colors affect people is the first step.
Why branding colors matter
“Colors, like features, change along with our emotions.” -Pablo Picasso
What do you think of when you hear the word “love?” Whether positive or negative, it mostly likely conjures a stronger emotional response than when you hear a phrase like “bike rack.”
In spite of our best intentions, emotions are powerful and influence our decisions. It’s important for a brand to cultivate an emotional connection with its customers. Logos and storefronts can’t tell your company’s entire story-but branding colors provide a shortcut straight to the hearts of your customers.
The words “love” and “bike rack” evoke different emotions, and colors like red and blue do the same. What’s more, people from Montana to Timbuktu have similar responses to the same colors; for instance, yellow has similar meanings to people from Montana to Timbuktu. Shades of individual colors, such as deep dark blue and light sky blue, will also have different effects.
Color theory goes way beyond the statement that “pink is a pretty color.” Psychologists believe it dates back to the very evolution of humans; connections with certain colors have developed after years of associating them with particular objects. People are alerted to danger by a blood-red color, for example; dirt and rotten food are unappealing browns.
Even so, it isn’t always accurate, because some farmers (and chocolate lovers) may love the color brown, and humanity only evolved to see blue in recent millennia-but when you consider millions of years worth of biological conditioning, it’s easy to see how color affiliations go beyond mere preferences… something humanity has known for generations.
Not to mention the cultural associations. The green currency we use every day is a clear example of this association with money in the United States. While foreigners may not understand the phrase “spending greens,” a company that goes green will be understood by most people.
No one can ignore the psychological effects of branding colors, not even the most cold-hearted of business people. Given the mountains of evidence, the question isn’t do brand colors work, but how do I make brand colors work for me?
What do different branding colors mean?
Now that we’ve studied the abstract meanings of colors for branding, let’s look at some of the hard facts (or at least some guidelines). A summary of colors and their meanings as well as their effect on people can be found here:
- Red — Red stands for passion, excitement and anger. It can signify importance and command attention.
- Orange — Orange stands for playfulness, vitality and friendliness. It is invigorating and evokes energy.
- Yellow — Yellow evokes happiness, youth and optimism, but can also seem attention-grabbing or affordable.
- Green — Green evokes stability, prosperity, growth and a connection to nature.
- Light Blue — A light shade of blue exudes tranquility, trust, openness. It can also signify innocence.
- Dark Blue — Dark blue stands for professionalism, security and formality. It is mature and trustworthy.
- Purple — Purple can signify royalty, creativity and luxury.
- Pink — Pink stands for femininity, youth and innocence. It ranges from modern to luxurious.
- Brown — Brown creates a rugged, earthy, old-fashioned look or mood.
- White — White evokes cleanliness, virtue, health or simplicity. It can range from affordable to high-end.
- Gray — Gray stands for neutrality. It can look subdued, classic, serious, mysterious or mature.
- Black — Black evokes a powerful, sophisticated, edgy, luxurious and modern feeling.
Your branding colors will have an impact based on the style and design they are used in, as well as the color combinations you select. The connection between color and our emotions goes deeper than this. Choosing a single-color brand is the easy part. But for most of you, you’ll want a more complicated color scheme with a variety of hues. It was hard enough to choose one color, now you have to choose multiple colors that blend well together.
Formula for building a brand color scheme
Color schemes for branding are a personal choice. There is no one right way to choose them. It’s difficult and unwise to apply rigid rules to abstracts like brand identity. In spite of this, the process can be confusing and daunting, so a little guidance can be useful. Here we’ll explain how we build a color scheme you can use as a framework, rather than a step-by-step guide.
1. Plan on choosing 3 colors
You need a neutral, an accent, and a base. Color schemes for brands can range from 1-4 colors (see below), but even monochromatic schemes require some variation in hues for different purposes.
2. Choose your base
What is the most important personality trait of your brand? In addition to reflecting your brand personality’s most dominant characteristic, your base color should also appeal to your desired audience. Depending on how well each color matches this one, you’ll choose the remaining ones.
3. Choose your accent
After your base color, the accent color will be the one you use the most. In addition to matching a brand personality trait, your accent color must also match your base color visually, not to mention appeal to your target audience.
4. Choosing your neutral
Neutral colors are usually chosen as background colors, in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Gray is common, but beige, white and off-white also work. There is also the option of black, but be careful; it tends to overpower any color scheme it is a part of.
As you choose your branding colors, keep in mind the end goal: what color scheme do you plan to use? The most common brand color schemes include:
A color wheel is one of your most useful tools when choosing branding colors. Colors are arranged on the wheel in relation to one another.
- Monochromatic — When you have one personality trait that you want to focus in on, a monochrome scheme will emphasis the meaning of that one brand color. While great for minimalist brands, the challenge here is differentiating the hues enough that your sight doesn’t become visually stunted.
- Analogous — Colors next to each other on the color wheel have harmonious relations, since adjacent colors usually have similar emotional connotations. Analogous schemes are safe bets, but as such not the best for standing out or drawing attention.
- Complementary — Color complements — or opposites — are colors directly across from one another on the color wheels. Because they’re opposites, they bring out the best in each other when paired; you see complementary colors a lot in sports teams. Complementary colors are great for dynamic, stimulating visuals, but be careful of copycatting another brand since they’re so popular.
- Triadic — A stable branding color scheme, triadic colors draw in equal parts for three different sections of the color wheel. Triadic schemes are stable like analogous themes, but offer a more stimulating variety like complementary schemes. The hardest part is getting the three colors to coincide with the traits of your brand identity.
The combination of your branding colors will show up in many different areas of your business. Your brand color scheme influences your website, logo, store design, advertisements, etc., and even the look of your social media accounts. Be careful when selecting yours.
Know when to color outside the lines
The choice of colors for your branding is not governed by any rules. Consider this article more of a guideline – an educational tool that will help you make an informed decision. However, don’t disregard your gut instincts. In choosing colors for your brand, don’t neglect your own emotions. Colors affect us emotionally, so don’t ignore your own feelings.