February 21, 2014 | Melanie Chandler

How to Choose Colors for a Brand


Browsing color schemes is one of my favorite things about design, particularly when it comes to logos and branding. There are times I find myself browsing Adobe Kuler and Design Seeds for hours looking at color palette inspirations. I love color, I love looking at color, and since starting my job at VIEO, I love getting to talk about color. I even have a color board on Pinterest! Working on a new branding project recently sparked the idea for this blog topic, and it's one I think a lot of people need help with: how to choose colors for your brand.

Using Color for Your Brand

When developing a brand for your company, there are many things you need to think about: Who am I speaking to? How do I want them to feel? What is my company representing? What is my company’s personality? Answering these questions is the first step to choosing colors for your brand. Colors have meanings, and the human eye and brain experience color mentally and emotionally.

Choosing Colors by Emotion and Persona

Color choices should resonate with your intended audience, so it’s critical to understand their demographics and psychographics. A scrapbooking mother in her 50s will generally respond to colors differently than her 20-year-old, sport-loving son. Think about what visual references your persona might associate a color with - will that avocado green feel organic and natural, or will it remind her of her mother's 1970s stove?

When choosing colors for your brand, think about what values your company is representing. Are you a retail store selling vintage furniture and clothing? Are you an organization campaigning for social change? Are you a financial firm handling investments for clients? Each of these three examples will need a distinct color palette. The vintage store may use muted colors that reflect a certain time period, the social change organization could have colors that represent it as strong and proactive, and the investment firm will need colors that convey the feelings of security and being protected.

Before choosing colors to represent your company or organization, dig deep into a particular color’s meaning and associations. While studying design during my associates program, I was required to purchase the popular Color Design Workbook, and the color index charts in that book have been my go-to guide for color meanings I list in this post and have used throughout my career.

Using the Color Red

Red is passion, aggression, love, heat, and power. Red stimulates heart rate, breathing, and appetite. It’s a visually dominant color, so it works well as an attention-grabber. Bright reds work well with making bold statements, while deeper reds like burgundy are more subtle in their suggestiveness. Pinks capture some of the same meanings - bright pinks are exciting and full of energy, while lighter pinks are softer and more romantic.

Using the Color Orange

Orange is creativity, energy, stimulation, sociability, and uniqueness. Orange is an appetite stimulant, and can be used to enhance visibility. Tones of orange can be seen as "zesty" and will add flavor to projects. Bright orange is dazzling and bold, but the intensity can feel glaring and makes some people feel uncomfortable. Using lighter and less intense tones like peach and coral can create a feeling of warmth and softness.

Using the Color Yellow

Yellow is joy, radiance, optimism, and caution. Yellow is the first color that the human eye notices, and it’s brighter than white. Pale yellow can enhance concentration, which is why it's used for legal pads. Bright yellows are illuminating and useful when you want to catch the consumer’s eye quickly. Softer and golden shades bring thoughts of relaxation and warming comfort. Golds are associated with luxury and wealth.

Using the Color Green

Green is money, growth, nature, envy, healing, and harmony. Green is the most soothing color to the eye, and is calming and refreshing. Light greens are calm, soothing and lightweight, while lime green is youthful and refreshing. Bright greens are lush and springy, and the jewel tone emerald is seen as luxurious and upscale. Olive greens are associated with camouflage and the military, while foliage greens are associated with growth, nature, and fertility.

Turquoise and teal also fall within the green family. The gemstone turquoise is often described as a sky blue with a hint of green, but in modern usage, there are varying shades. Turquoise is compassionate, faithful, and generally associated with tropical settings. There are many shades of teal - teal blue has an undertone of green, teal green has an undertone of blue, and classic teal has equal amounts of blue and green. Teal is serene and sophisticated.

Using the Color Blue

Blue is masculinity, loyalty, depression, stability, and coolness. Blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals and stimulates productivity. Light blues are quiet and peaceful, dark blues are serious and thought provoking, and bright blues are electric and vibrant.

Using the Color Purple

Purple is luxury, nobility, intrigue, and sophistication. Purple has a romantic quality and enhance the imagination. Purples with tones of blue have mystical, heavenly and spiritual properties, while shades or purple with tones of red are more dramatic and creative. Deep purples are rich and royal, and lighter shades like lavender are seen as romantic.

Using  Neutral Colors

Neutral colors are your canvas, and are seen as classic. Black boosts self-confidence and strength while making other colors look brighter. White is associated with angels and divinity. Gray rarely evokes strong emotions.

Keep the psychology of color a high priority when choosing appropriate hues. Colors have emotional meanings, and because of how we see subconsciously see colors, first impressions are critical. A buyer’s decision-making is emotional, and they often make purchasing decisions based on perception rather than logic. Colors play a major role in creating those perceptions, so choosing the right colors for your brand has an impact on your bottom line.

How well do you know your customers? Create buyer personas to find out.

Crafting Effective Buyer Personas-Click Here to Download

Melanie Chandler

Melanie Chandler

As design director, Melanie Chandler leads the design team and works with them to create consistently compelling and engaging website designs, images for digital marketing, and other visual content to communicate corporate identity and drive traffic on websites and social media.

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