Colour theory is no longer just a theory. Research has shown a direct correlation between a brand’s colour choices and how customers perceive them, even to the point of influencing purchasing behaviour. But what does that mean for you? How can you find out the best colours for your business?
According to new research from 99designs, 65% of small business owners choose their logo colours simply by “personal taste and preference”. At the same time, 48% admitted that when designing their logo they didn’t do any research into what different colours meant or how they affect people’s perception of their brand. That’s a missed opportunity given that your logo is the face of your whole brand.
But before you before you get down to the nitty-gritty of choosing a colour for your logo or a broader colour palette for your small business, you have to figure out what kind of brand you want to be. Here are some pointers to get you started.
What’s Your Brand Personality?
The first step is knowing what you want both your brand to represent. Playful, serious, loud or subdued? At first glance, your brand communicates your personality and shows customers what they can expect from your business so it’s important to get it right.
Your brand personality should factor in both your target customer base and your industry. For example, if you’re trying to sell a sports drink to children, having a “playful” and “youthful” brand personality would serve you well. However, if you’re an accounting firm that caters to older clientele, being a “playful” and “youthful” brand might do more harm than good.
Considering your target customer base, your industry, and your company’s own values, list out 30 adjectives that describe the brand you want to be. Be descriptive — traits like “disruptive” or “convenient” are more telling than “good” or “new.” If you get stuck, ask yourself questions like “Why did you start your business in the first place?” or “What makes you unique compared to your competitors?”
Once you have a clear idea of your brand personality, you can start matching these traits to their corresponding colours. Blue is often used to represent security and trustworthiness, while red indicates youth and excitement. Purple often reflects luxury, while black is perceived to be powerful and sophisticated. There are also lots of resources available online for in-depth analysis of which colours represent specific emotions you might want your brand to communicate.
Choosing Your Colour Scheme: Step by Step
Brand-specific colours can create consistency across all of the touch points where you interact with your customers, whether in your email signature, logo design, or in your advertising materials.
A good colour scheme should usually include 1-3 colours, typically a base, an accent and a neutral. The less colours you choose, the more impact your remaining colours have; for example, choosing a monochrome scheme of just red means your brand will come off as more passionate than if you choose a scheme of both red and white.
Assuming that you decide to go with a traditional three-shade colour palette, the following steps are a good place to start.
1. Choose Your Base
As the shade used most frequently, your base colour will deliver the strongest message to your customers. It should represent the brand trait you value most.
If you’re struggling to choose a base colour, we have created an interactive tool where you can select your desired brand personality traits according to standard metrics like “masculine vs. feminine,” or “luxurious vs. loud” on a sliding scale based on how strongly you want your brand to identify with that trait. It then suggests an associated colour match to represent this trait.
2. Choose Your Accent
After choosing your base, you then need to select your secondary colour. This can be a tricker process because you need to take two things into account: it needs to communicate important brand traits not represented by your base colour, but it also has to complement your base colour aesthetically.
So if green is your base, good complementary colours would be either red, yellow, or light blue. Ideally you should choose a secondary colour that satisfies both requirements: representing your brand and looking good.
Without dwelling too much on the details of colour theory, you can check a secondary colour “matches” your base colour by either going directly across the colour wheel, or choosing a colour directly adjacent. To help, the Adobe Color Wheel lets you play with different combinations and even offers suggestions based on the type of scheme you want.
3. Choose Your Neutral
Neutral colours support your base and accent by tying everything together without detracting from the main colours that represent your brand personality. Neutral shades often make up the background or text, and sometimes form borders to make hard-to-see elements more distinct.
Choosing one shouldn’t be too much of challenge as only a handful of colours are neutral including:
- Offshoots (cream, charcoal, etc.)
Keep in mind the properties of each neutral colour as well as how heavily it’s used. For example, if black is your neutral colour and it’s used quite a bit, it may overshadow your base colour. If there’s a conflict, consider using an offshoot colour to soften its effects. If black or white is too strong, think about using charcoal or cream instead.
Once you’ve chosen a colour scheme, remember to be consistent in how you use it, whether on your logo, website, social media accounts, storefront or uniforms. The more you use colours that reflect the personality of your business, the more you will enhance brand recognition, create an emotional connection for existing and new customers, and they might even help you close your next deal.