Why Color Psychology is Important to Your Brand

I sure hope it’s starting to look like Spring in your neck of the woods! The landscape is still pretty bleak here, but I exchanged my black snow boots for polkadot rain boots this week which is making me all kinds of happy (even if the snow boots aren’t packed away yet, because, well, it’s Spring in Canada!).

This is the time of year when we look forward to more color — leaves and buds bursting out after a long barren winter. And as we think about color around us, it’s a great time to think about how you’re using color in your branding. I've shared before about color psychology and how it helps us choose on-brand photography. Here we'll go a little more in-depth and discuss how it affects your brand and your clients.

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I often hear that choosing colors feels overwhelming. Where do I start? There are so many to choose from, how do I ever narrow it down? How do I know which ones are right? Does it really matter or can I just pick colors I like?

Color alone is credited with increasing your brand recognition by up to 80%! Just think about a few of today’s well-known brands — Coke, Facebook, and Apple. It’s likely that their color (red, blue, and white) is even more recognizable than the details of their logos. Glance at your iPhone screen. If you’re anything like me, you recognize which icon to tap by color more than by name.

Just like our Brand Summary keywords, our colors are strategically and intentionally chosen because they too evoke specific feelings and emotions. I usually select colors in one of two ways.

The first method is to compare your keywords to a list of associated color feelings and emotions. (Read this post for more help on defining unique keywords.) Use this comprehensive color chart to help you. Find color descriptions that match your keywords and start there.

color psychology and choosing brand colors

The second method is to start searching with ONLY your Brand Summary keywords. Don’t worry about the color emotions yet. I usually search on Pinterest and on several stock photo sights. Searching with brand keywords should naturally generate images with the correct colors, and, as a visual person, I find this method to be way more fun! You’ll see repetition and patterns emerge. Save images to a folder on your desktop or pin them to a secret Pinterest board. Some photo sites like iStock* also let you pin to a board. Once you see the common thread, THEN go back to your color chart and double-check that they align. Tweak your color choices as needed. There’s a bonus with this method: it will point you in the direction of which SPECIFIC color to use. Is your blue more navy, royal, aqua, teal, or sky blue? It usually makes the “narrowing down” much easier.

Notice that with both methods, we still start with brand keywords. Without knowing what you want to say about your business and who you’re saying it to, you’ll just be throwing spaghetti at the wall. You can pick a beautiful palette, but you likely won’t get the results you’re looking for. Don’t try to take shortcuts here!

A few color generalities to be aware of:

  • Warm colors (red, orange, yellow) are exciting, happy, and comforting, but they can also symbolize anger, violence, or cowardice.

  • Cool colors (green, blue, violet) are calming, soothing, and stable, but they can also be sad or depressing.

  • Neutral colors (grey, tan, brown, black) are modern and sleek, but they can be flat, having less “personality” than the other colors. 

  • Overall, blue is well-received by male and female audiences.

  • Tints (colors mixed with white) are perceived as softer and more feminine.

  • Shades (colors mixed with black) are generally more traditional, classic, and masculine.

  • Tones (colors mixed with grey) are softer and muted, the most complex colors used in design. They are friendly, soothing, and easy on the eyes.

Keep in mind that although these color associations have a lot of research behind them, color is also very subjective. Personality and culture affect each person’s perception and interpretation of color. Be especially aware of this if you have a particularly unique or international audience, but for Western culture, you’ll find these descriptions to be quite accurate.

Enjoy the emergence of Spring and notice how all the new colors make you feel!

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