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Color Me Well-Branded: All About Color Theory

116 & West

When you think of the word “anger,” what color pops up? For most Americans, it’s red. How about nature? Probably green. Put red and green together, though, and now you’ve got Christmas on the brain. Suddenly you’re not thinking about throwing punches or serene hikes in the forest. Instead, you’re imagining Santa, presents, twinkling lights, and a tummy full of sugar cookies.

An intro into color theory

Color is deeply integrated into the human psyche. It can influence our moods on a very fundamental level, and our social and cultural upbringings can change and deepen these meanings and associations.

Since color is such a big deal in our culture and brain, its association with your brand cannot be overlooked. Our brilliant Senior Designer, Kelsey Selis (formerly Green, insert last name color joke here), has some wisdom to share about selecting the right color for your brand:

Color Dictionary

Kelsey treats color like it’s her job (because it kind of is). She’s got serious experience under her belt using colors to successfully brand a variety of clients. Below, she’s outlined what some staple colors mean and convey in the world of branding:

Black – elegant, serious, mysterious
White – pure, economical, righteous
Yellow – cheerful, youthful, warm, happy, cautious
Orange – invigorating, energetic, vitality, bold, loud
Red – passion, anger, excitement, love
Blue – relaxing, calm, strong, mature, trustworthy, honesty
Green – peaceful, organic, energetic, earthy, fresh, rejuvenating, wealth
Purple – ambition, magic, mystery, royalty, spirituality
Pink – health, youthfulness, naivety, playfulness, cute
Brown – grounded, rugged, robust, wholesome

These colors each have their own appeal, but Kelsey says in order to determine which ones to associate with your brand, you need to do some research. According to 99designs, there are six central factors to consider before picking colors to represent your brand: gender, tone, value, time, age, and energy.

“Researching and understanding your brand’s position among these factors ensures the colors you select will best represent the brand, its personality, and your ability to attract the desired target market,” explains Kelsey.

How brands incorporate color

Kelsey is a forever student – she’s always diligently studying her craft. She’s observed how the greats in the branding world use color to communicate and compiled several examples of what it means to use color effectively in branding.

For example, The New York Times and Chanel show that black never goes out of style. These companies are luxury brands that are known for being “the best of the best.” Their logos both use black to convey the power, elegance, and sophistication that their customers aspire to associate with, says Kelsey.

Meanwhile, social media sites often opt for a different approach. “Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook want their consumer to trust them, to feel safe and welcome, and to respect their company. They use blues,” Kelsey explains. For platforms that are public but also in charge of delicate private information, it’s important to convey these messages.

Look to Whole Foods and Spotify, and you’ll see green’s power in full force. While these companies are in two very different industries, Kelsey says they both employ hues of green to inspire their customers to feel revitalized and move forward.

The gray area

Things get a little less black and white when you’re thinking on an international scale. Kelsey points out that while red in the United States is commonly associated with passion (whether it be anger, violence, or love), it’s a symbol of luck and good fortune in China.

If your brand is looking to target a global audience, you’ll want to carefully research a color’s connotations in these different cultures to ensure your brand personality is being accurately portrayed on all fronts.

The shade matters

Changing the tone or shade of a color can also alter its meaning. The color pink, for example, comes in a variety of shades. Each one holds different meanings and associations. By altering the shade of a color, you can further refine the story of your brand.

Hot pink inspires youthful, energetic, sexy, and fun feelings. Brands that use this color include Victoria’s Secret and Cosmopolitan.

Blush pink, on the other hand, is more mature, delicate, and sophisticated. It’s commonly associated with new life, freshness, and calmness. The popular millennial-targeted makeup brand Glossier uses this color.

Being strategic with color

No matter the industry you’re in, a strategic color choice is vital for successful branding. With a perfect blend of research and creativity, color can go a long way in helping to tell your story and create connections with consumers. Trust us – our brand color is blue, after all!

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