How to Use Color to Create a Brand

August 15th, 2014

Color affects people and their emotions and can even evoke feelings of optimism, excitement, and trust. When creating a visual identity for a brand it is important to consider color combinations and how they establish meaning and harmony.

Picking Colors

Color Associations

Some argue that colors create meaning and have common associations or symbolism. Brands that use color properly tie this meaning to their brand message and encourage an audience to feel a certain way.

For example, the Starbucks logo is highly recognized by its green color, which can be associated with nature. The signature green suggests a calming and soothing experience with Starbucks products.

In a similar way, CocaCola uses color to create feelings and associations. The bright, highly saturated red allows the brand to stand out and evokes feelings of thirst and urgency. Still, the color relates back to “the brands’ core values of happiness, refreshment, optimism, fun, simple moments of pleasure, authenticity, coming together, and uplift.”

Some common associations include:

  • Red – excitement, youth, boldness, quickness, urgency, hunger, and love
  • Orange – happiness, movement, energy, enthusiasm, friendliness, expressiveness, and innocence
  • Yellow – energy, clarity, innovation, optimism, and cheerfulness
  • Green – nature, youth, education, calmness, soothingness, health, peace, growth, security, and possibility
  • Blue – credibility, calmness, trust, cleanliness, medicinal affects, power, professional, and quality
  • Purple – creativity, imagination, wisdom, mystery, and royalty
  • Black – stability, strength, power, precision, sophistication, and professional
  • Brown – historical, nurturing, safety, conservativeness, and ruggedness
  • White – happiness, purity, sincerity, cleanliness, sterility, balanced, spacious, simplicity, and freshness

Source: The Art & Science of Great Website Color Selection

Color Rules and Combinations

The rules of color harmony provide a guide for combining colors; different tints and values of colors can be used to create a pleasing palette to design with. Here are a few to follow:

Complementary: Opposites on the color wheel

The high contrast of these colors are vibrant and bold. Be careful of using complementary colors in excess they can be overwhelming on the eyes.

Analogous: Adjacent on the color wheel
Analogous colors are often found in nature and usually match well and to create pleasing designs.

Triad: Evenly spaced around the color wheel
Triadic colors tend to be quite vibrant, even if you use unsaturated versions. Let one color dominate and use the other two as accents.

Split Complimentary: A base color, two colors adjacent to its complementary colors.
Split complementary color schemes have strong visual contrast, but less tension as the complementary color schemes.

Monochromatic: Colors in varying shades, tints, and tones of a single hue
Tints are achieved by adding white, while shades and tones are created by adding dark grey or black.

Try out your own color combinations with Adobe Color CC.

The Takeaway

Careful selection of color to achieve meaning and harmony is foundational in any design and these choices define a brand. An excellent way to explain your color choices is with a brand guideline, which often outlines typefaces, grids and colors, and helps to ensure visual unity across all materials.

To learn more about the design and branding services Springboard provides, check out our case studies on RapidRPA and Protect Me With 3+.

Stefanie Osmond

Stefanie is Springboard's graphic designer and creative problem solver. Beyond her desk, she spends her time crafting, trying out new dinner recipes, watching competitive baking competitions, and sipping on tea.

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