Image: a graphic made as a part of Music Tasmania's brand identity by Lousy!
Hey Internet, Olivia here. I'm the Creative Director of Lousy! and I have a self-professed colour obsession. In fact, I believe I'm a tetrachromat - someone who sees about 100x the amount of colours that most people see. [See here for a fascinating interview with a tetrachromat: https://www.thecut.com/2015/02/what-like-see-a-hundred-million-colors.html]
Needless to say, choosing a brand colour palette - especially when clients allow me the complete creative freedom to choose for them (hint, hint) - is my favourite part of creating a brand identity.
I want to take some time to talk about the importance of choosing the right colours for your brand because this step is essential to creating a strong, memorable and effective brand identity. The colours you choose will have a significant impact on how your brand is perceived and remembered by your target audience, and I want to help you stand out.
Tip #1 - Understand the meanings of different colours.
This one may seem obvious, but it's not as straightforward as you might think. We all know that different colours evoke different emotions and associations in people's minds, but did you know that the meanings of colours can vary greatly across cultures?
For example, we know that in Western cultures white is often associated with purity and innocence. In Eastern cultures, however, white can symbolise mourning and funerals!
In some cultures, the meanings of colours are deeply rooted in tradition and history. In Hinduism, for example, the colour saffron represents purity and spirituality, while in China the colour red symbolises good luck and happiness, and is often associated with celebrations such as the Chinese New Year.
It is also worth noting that the meanings of colours can vary within a single culture, depending on the context such as a business setting versus a social setting.
"Color is the most powerful communication tool in the world. It speaks a language that is universally understood. But what it says can vary greatly from culture to culture." – Jill Morton, colour consultant and author of "Color Matters"
Knowing the cultural significance of colours is an important part of creating an effective and culturally-sensitive brand strategy.
Tip #2 - Consider your target audience.
When choosing colours for your brand, it's important to consider your target audience and the emotions you want to evoke. Different colours may appeal to different demographics. For example, certain colours may be more popular with younger generations, while others may be more appealing to older generations. By considering your target audience, you can choose a palette that will resonate with them.
When Lousy! was creating the brand identity for Music Tasmania, we wanted to resonate with musicians and music-lovers on the island. That's a very broad target audience, so we decided on a palette of colours that are found on the island's natural landscape that were seemingly at odds with one another - so it didn't favour one specific demographic while leaving another one out. For example, the combination of the bright pink from a waratah flower juxtaposed with the muted periwinkle from Tassie's famous skies provided an energetic maturity that was fitting for the brand. See what I mean by browsing through the Music Tasmania website, https://musictasmania.org/.
Tip #3 - Consider your brand's personality and message.
The colours you choose for your brand should reflect your brand's personality and message. If your brand is focused on health and wellness, for example, you may want to choose green, which is often associated with growth, fitness, and health. Alternatively, if your brand is focused on luxury and sophistication, you may want to choose black or gold, which are often associated with luxury and elegance. More on this in Tip #5.
One quick example of the way colours can be used to subliminally hint at a personality is when Andrew and I branded Melbourne's Gum Bar's range of on-the-go cocktails, Traveller. One of them is called 'Staycation'. See if you can spot the clever use of colour here. (Hint: We're in Australia) https://www.instagram.com/p/CefOMvivbOh/
Tip #4 - Consider your competitors.
This one's a no-brainer. When choosing colours for your brand, it's important to consider your competitors and the colours they are using. While you want your brand to stand out and be memorable, you also want to make sure your brand doesn't clash with your competitors. In short, do your homework. The last thing you want is to be accused of stealing someone's ideas.
Tip #5 - Break the rules.
The four tips above are a guide on how to start thinking about colour for your brand. But I like to learn the rules and then break them! It makes for a much bolder brand.
For example, if your brand is focused on health and wellness, even though green is often associated with health, you may find that most of your competitors use green as a brand colour. Therefore, you may want to choose a unique shade of green (like chartreuse) OR choose another colour altogether. A health and wellness company that's pink will automatically stand out.
That's what I did for Queensland, Tasmania's yoga and pilates studio, Feels Good!. I found that most competitor studios used muted tones like sage green, ocean blues, and beiges, so Feels Good! was branded in hot pink, electric yellow, and vivid orange. The result is a brand personality that fit the name: it's exciting, energetic, and totally stands out. Check it out the first look of the brand here: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cj9W0Rxvsnu/
Colour palette inspiration is everywhere
Here's a challenge for you: next time you go on a walk, whether it's with your dog or to the pub, look for colour palettes in the wild. I don't mean in other business' branding, although that's important too. Notice how the weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk look against that brick wall that's been painted over but is peeling. Take a look at that yellow car that's parked in front of a pastel deli. What emotions does it bring up? What kind of business would the palette work well with? Work really badly with?
Choosing the right colours for your brand is an important part of creating an effective and memorable brand identity. Learning these guidelines and training your eye to notice colour combinations will allow you to choose colours for your brand that will resonate with your audience and effectively communicate your desired brand image and message.
If you're at the stage of branding your business and have a question about colours, shoot me an email at email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you.