Color me brand


Is color important to a brand identity or website? This is one of the most frequent questions I field while we are developing our clients’ brand identities. The answer, in a word, is a resounding Yes! Color is the second most common way in which humans perceive and remember information. Shape comes first. Color is second. (Language is third.)

We learn the meaning of colors at preschool age and keep reinforcing that knowledge all through grade school. As young adults, we are taught the colors of brand-savvy corporations.

What color is a fire truck? What color is a ghost? How about the sky? Or the ocean? What color do you wear at a funeral? What color is UPS? How about DHL? What color is Kodak? Everyone knows IBM is blue.

Think about the colors you interact with every day. What would travel through your mind if you saw a green stop sign? How about a purple caution sign? Have you ever noticed that One Way road signs are black and white? If they were green and white, that would send a confusing message because we all know that green means go. Do you notice the color of peoples’ eyes? How about their clothes? Would you buy a green steak? Or a black tomato?

You rarely see the color black used as the predominant color on food packaging. What associations do you make with black? Burn, evil, death, mystery. You wouldn’t buy burnt food. At least, not on purpose.

What colors do you see when you walk into most natural food stores? Fruit and vegetables are most often positioned in your direct line of sight. It’s like seeing a rainbow right in front of your eyes. Rainbows make us feel good and fill us with wonder and happiness. Vibrant colors, like those found in fruits and vegetables, are associated with health. We like buying healthy food, particularly when we are happy.

Have you ever seen a doctor with a bright red business card? Probably not. What enters our minds when we see bright red? Emergencies, blood, danger, fire, passion, love and hate. What happens when a bull sees red? What happens when you cut yourself? The last thing physicians want their patients thinking about is blood, let alone emergencies or severed limbs. Physician brand identities are usually a picture of calm, with colors exuding that feeling. Band-aid packaging, on the other hand, almost always has bright red on it.

With these few examples, you can see how color can effect the way you feel. Color plays an unimaginably important role in our everyday lives. With so much of our perception and knowledge based on our interactions with color, it’s clear to see that the colors of your brand are critical in connecting with customers. Color can effect the way people perceive and understand your identity or website, and therefore, your company. Color can turn them on or off, bore or excite them, send them running scared or instill confidence. Color communicates meaning in ways that no other aspect of your brand can.

If you would like to read more about color in design, there is an excellent book titled Kelvin that is well worth a read.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

Thank you! This is going to feel good.

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