A Guide to Choosing Colors for Your Brand
One of the key elements of building a strong brand is color selection. Every color has a different feel and various associations. By choosing a color or a combination of colors for your brand identity, you will take on those associations. Colors will evoke certain emotions and feelings towards your brand so it is vital to choose a color that will represent your identity effectively.
Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone.
If you own a color in your industry, this color will symbolize your product. This can act as a great identifier. For example, if you sell physical goods, your packaging will stand out from the competition. The color will also be recognizable on any promotional media and your logos.
Where to start?
There is a great new tool which can help out with color selection called Cymbolism. It’s an interactive survey of color and word associations. Every page loads a new word, for which you have to select a color you feel best represents it. The results are then aggregated and you can see most popular associations either by color or by word.
To help you select the right color for your brand I’ve aggregated the results from Cymbolism, and also provided examples of logos that use each color:
These aren’t the top ten words that represent each color, these are just the words that happened to have been entered and processed by Cymbolism and came out on top. Having said this, the sample size is quite large and the selection should give you a decent indication of what a color stands for.
I’ve also included some multi-colored examples at the end. Some brands choose not to associate themselves with one color. Instead of two or three colors, they choose four or more. This represents variety. This makes sense for brands that are platforms or marketplaces as they host vast amount of different applications or goods.
There are also two more colors that haven’t made it on the list: black and white. These are arguably not even colors, and they will go well with pretty much everything you choose. White you probably shouldn’t use because you won’t be able to print the logo on white paper unless the white is used on a darker background. Black is a good complementary color to use and a lot of brands choose to have the text set in black because it is neutral and serious.
How to select your color
Look through the table above for a quick overview of what each color stands for. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What color represents your brand's personality?
- What color suits the characteristics of your product/service?
- What color does your competitor(s) use?
Colors aren’t tied to any particular industry — though some may be better suited for some services/products than others. You should aim to pick a color that will represent your brand’s personality best. One that will give your customers the right impression the first time they see it.
You aren’t limited to one color. Some brands like eBay choose to go with many colors to represent variety — but you can also choose a couple of colors that work well together.
Consider differences in cultural interpretations of your color. For example in the Western world, white is considered the color of purity and peace, however, in some parts of Asia white is the color of death. Make sure the color you select will give the right impressions in the markets you’re present in.
Pick a color opposite to that of your main competitor. The color of your main competitor is probably the most important point to consider. If you’re the first in a new industry or market segment, then you have first picks. Choose the color that represents your product and its personality. If you’re second, then that first choice may already be taken. Instead of picking the same or similar color, pick the opposite. Pick blue if your competitor has red, pick purple if they have yellow, etc. A brand’s strength lies in its ability to stand out. Picking the same color to that of your key competitor makes you a me-too product. Instead, you want to separate yourself from the competitor, you want to show that you’re different.
Here are some tools and resources you may find useful:
Articles and Resources:
- Color in Motion
- Veerle Pieters: Choosing Color Combinations
- Xerox Exchange: Choosing a Color for Your Business
- Why Color Matters
- Brand Identity: The Importance of Color
- Pallasart Web Design: How to Make Effective Use of color in Websites
- Elf Design: Choosing the Right Color Palette