Whether you realize it or not, color is a fundamental aspect of our everyday lives. How we interact with and perceive our world is largely based on the colors that surround us. Color subliminally influences our emotions and our state of mind. If the weather is cloudy and gray for a few consecutive days, we can start to feel gloomy. Numerous studies have shown the correlation between the weather and our moods, and many of the effects of weather are based on the presence or absence of the sun or light.
We perceive colors in light waves. Mixing light (or the additive color mixing model) creates colors by mixing red, green and blue light sources of various intensities. The more light you add, the brighter the color mix becomes. If you mix all three colors of light, you get pure white light. TVs, screens, and projectors use red, green and blue (RGB) as their primary colors, and then mix them together to create other colors.
The intensity of a color is known as saturation. A color in its purest, brightest form is 100% saturated — the closer that color approaches gray, the more desaturated it becomes. Using bright or muted colors (either by themselves or together) can be a strategic way to create places of high or low contrast in a design.
CREATING A COLOR PALETTE
Color is a cornerstone of brand identity. Consistent use of your brand’s color palette both reinforces brand cohesiveness and it also communicates a specific feeling and emotion to your audience. Hours and hours are spent by brand professionals determining the best color palette to use for a brand — choosing the wrong colors can have potentially tragic consequences for your brand.
Analogous colors are positioned next to one another on the color wheel, think red, orange and yellow. When creating an analogous color scheme, one color will dominate, one will support, and another will accent. In business, analogous color schemes are not only pleasing to the eye, but they can effectively instruct the consumer where and how to take action. Shades (adding the color black) and tints (adding the color white) are created from the primary palette to provide more color variability while still maintaining consistent brand expression.
Less is more, especially in design, and especially when creating your primary color palette. As a general rule of thumb, stick to three colors to keep your brand simple, clean and not too overwhelming. In addition to the amount of colors to use, be mindful of the psychology of colors. Different colors evoke different emotions and responses — you need to ensure your color palette doesn’t conflict with your brand’s intent. The colors below obviously aren’t the only colors to choose from; however, they’re some of the most popular.
The color red attracts the viewer’s attention, exciting and motivating them to take action. Physiologically, this color is known to have a profound effect on the human body, shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate. (ImagiBrand)
Positive meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: powerful, energetic, passionate, strong, courageous, attention-getting, motivating, stimulating, driven and determined, exciting, warm, spontaneous, assertive and confident.
Negative meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: aggressive and angry, domineering, over-bearing and tiring, quick-tempered, ruthless, fearful and intolerant, rebellious and obstinate, resentful, violent and brutal.
The color orange suggests fun, optimism and adventure. Gentler than the attention-grabbing nature of red, this color inspires and creates enthusiasm. Being that the color orange stimulates conversation and imparts a message of affordability, this color is beneficial for restaurants, hotels and youth-oriented markets. (Imagibrand)
Positive meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: adventurous, vibrant, flamboyant, warm, sociable, optimistic, enthusiastic, cheerful, self-confident, independent, extroverted, exhibits creative flair, warm-hearted, agreeable and informal.
Negative meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: superficial and insincere, dependent, over-bearing, self-indulgent, the exhibitionist, pessimistic, cheap, unsociable, and overly proud.
Yellow is one of the most bipolar colors in the color wheel. On the one hand, it’s very warm, playful and happy. It can be psychologically uplifting and optimistic, brightening the spirit of those exposed to its glow. On the other side, the color yellow has the tendency to cause agitation, nervousness and anxiety, especially in people with already low-thresholds for stress. It can motivate people to become overly critical, deceitful and even mentally unstable, especially the darker shades of color which are associated with depression and low self-worth. (Imagibrand)
Positive meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: cheerful, happy, playful, fun, optimistic, uplifting, confident, creative, illuminating, mental clarity, aid decision-making, originality, challenging, academic and analytical, wise and logical.
Negative meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: critical and judgmental, overly analytical, impatient and impulsive, egotistical, pessimistic, cowardly, deceitful, non-emotional and lacking compassion.
Psychologically, the color green promotes clarity of the mind and the balancing of our emotions. Green is highly associated with nature and health, encouraging a sense of compassion, kindness and nurturing. The lighter side of the color indicates freshness and growth while the darker shades of the color green relate to prestige and wealth. (Imagibrand)
Positive meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: growth and vitality, renewal and restoration, self-reliance, calm, nature-loving and family oriented, practical, sympathetic, compassionate and nurturing, adaptable and flexible.
Negative meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: possessive and materialistic, indifferent and over-cautious, envious, selfish, greedy and miserly, devious with money, inconsiderate, a hypochondriac and a do-gooder.
Being the most universally preferred color used to express trust, reliability and dependability, the color blue is highly favored by the corporate business world to help nurture customer loyalty. This cool, calming color is used as a fear and tension reducer since it physiologically has the effect of slowing down pulse rate. Much like an open blue sky, this harmonious color creates the impression of space and is conducive to one-to-one communication. (Imagibrand)
Positive meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: loyal, trusting and honest, tactful, caring and concerned, reliable and responsible, conservative and persevering, idealistic and orderly, authoritative, devoted and contemplative.
Negative meanings in business include, but aren’t limited to: rigid, self-righteous, superstitious and emotionally unstable, too conservative, predictable and weak, unforgiving and frigid, manipulative, unfaithful and distrustful.
Building a harmonious and well-thought out color palette is one of the first steps that should be taken when creating your brand guidelines. If you’re having trouble finding inspiration, take a photograph of something of interest with your smartphone or camera (flowers, sunsets, landscapes, whatever interests you…). Then, sample the colors within the photograph and see what speaks to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Skaggs is the co-founder of BODDHI Branding, a creative agency with a vision to authentically and creatively construct stories to help your brand grow. Digital and social media, branding, recruitment and content strategy are all functions Chris has developed building teams, processes and strategies from the ground-up. Dedicated to giving back Chris also co-founded Leighton’s Gift, a non-profit with a mission of turning a tragedy into something positive. He also serves on the boards of a variety of different organizations. A natural storyteller, Chris’ work and experiences have been featured on CNN, Marketing Sherpa, Thrive Global, CBS Radio, Recruiter.com and Glassdoor. Get connected online, @chrislskaggs.