Choosing a Compelling Color Scheme Appropriate for Your Brand
Hacking your way through graphic design starts at understanding how color schemes affect your brand’s influence over your audience. Creating and designing under the authority of a color scheme is no cakewalk. You may initially find some colors to be very appealing, but as time goes on you can feel restrained by their use. No matter what you’re en route to design, however—email campaigns, sales materials, marketing collateral—the color scheme you choose should hit right on the mark with your product or service offering.
All of your design elements will ride on your color scheme and your scheme should be consistent across your materials, so tread lightly. Don’t choose something that risks overwhelming your audience. At the same time, remember that there is a fine line between simplicity and the mundane.
Staring at a blank canvas is intimidating and if you aren’t artistically inclined, choosing a design color scheme can be even more ambitious. No matter your experience level, there are some solutions and rules to follow that can help you initiate your own design strategy without falling completely down the rabbit hole. Here are some ways to create a color scheme appropriate to your branding strategy.
Choose a Cohesive Color Scheme
No matter what colors you decide on, if they’re not cohesive your design will simply not be appealing. You may decide to pick colors from your company logo, or you may decide to stay in the same color family or temperature (warm or cool). Choosing the latter is a little more difficult to conceive all on your own, but if your company’s colors are extremely bright or dark it may be a more suitable and aesthetically pleasing option.
For example, we recently released our eBook, Transitioning to Blended Learning and Development Content, with colors that play outside of Mimeo’s logo which is composed of the printing colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). While our company colors are appropriate to being a print and digital content distribution company, having the 4 printing colors draped across every design element can be overwhelming. With a cohesive color scheme, your design will be much more pulled together and will garner a lot of positive attention. However, creating a color scheme isn’t all that simple.
Luckily, for those of us who aren’t graphic designers there are sites that exist just for the sole purpose of delivering you with alluring color schemes. Coolors is just one of these sites – a color scheme generator website and app. To begin, simply start the generator and click the spacebar if you’re on your computer, or tap the screen if you’re on your phone or tablet.
Coolors will generate different color schemes that you can export via URL, email, PDF, or PNG formats. If the generator spits out a scheme that you like, but you aren’t completely sold on it, you can finetune the palettes to your liking. You also have the option to browse popular palettes created by other users from the Coolors community. If this seems too advantageous for your design abilities, you can also upload an image and choose colors from that image.
Consider Your Target Audience
The colors you choose truly navigate around their intended audience. The audience you seek out drastically changes the colors that you choose. Bright, bold color schemes are attention grabbers. If you’re printing out promotional flyers then you may be more lenient towards vibrant hues that attract attention from across a room or catch the eye of a busy passerby walking down the street.
Likewise, if you’re designing a company brochure, you want to stick with colors that communicate the brochure’s message without losing readability with low value (bright) font colors. The same holds true to any piece of marketing collateral you create. The key to succeeding with a document’s color scheme is to understand who your target audience is and how to design for them. Translate what you know about your intended audience into the color scheme, choosing colors that make sense to them while still relating it back to your product or service.
It may sound old school, but choosing your color palette from a color wheel is a proven design process. A color wheel allows you to build color schemes from scratch to grab the attention of your audience. Keep in mind the following rules in achieving color harmony:
- Analogous colors are groups of three colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel
- Monochromatic colors are all the colors (tints, tones, and shades) of a single hue
- Triadic colors use three evenly spaced colors around the wheel
- Complementary colors are directly opposite of each other on the wheel
Under the assumption that you don’t happen to have a color wheel on hand, you can use Adobe Kulers’ Color Wheel. Adobe Kulers lets you choose color pairings by color harmony rules. For example, when you click the complementary option, the colors you pick will be automatically paired with colors directly opposite. You can also explore color themes by popularity or at random.
Like Coolors, Adobe Kulers provides the option to upload a photo to pull colors from. The only difference with Kulers is that when you upload a photo you can decide on the colors chosen by mood: colorful, bright, muted, deep or dark. Adobe Kulers is also a great tool to select appropriate brighter colors for attention grabbers, like a call to action button, that is suitable to your color palette’s base.
Use Color Messaging for Your Brand
Color is a powerful medium in the purchasing experience. Help Scout helps to summarize the broader messaging patterns found in color perceptions and their role in branding and purchasing. Colors directly influence how a consumer perceives a brand and immensely affect their purchasing intents. The study, Impact of Color in Marketing, provides a snippet of the influence of color in the buying process. The study’s researchers found that up to 90 percent of snap judgments made about a product or service are solely based upon color. That’s a tough number to compete with. So don’t. Try to leverage the influence of color to your brand’s advantage.
Choose a color scheme that is appropriate to what you’re selling. However, don’t get stuck in the same rut as your competitors. Stylify Me is a website that helps designers quickly gain an overview of another site’s style guide. This includes the site’s colors, fonts, sizing, and spacing. While you should never copy someone else’s design, Stylify Me allows you to research your competitors’ sites to create awareness of current design trends and understand design choices. For instance, using Stylify Me we compared two popular news sources: The New York Times and CNN.
Both The Times and CNN sell the same service, news delivery. Some of their colors are similar to one another: whites, grays, blues and blacks. Yet, their color schemes are very different from one another and this is surely a deliberate choice. One clearly evokes the crisp austerity of the Times, while the other evokes the breaking news, bold CNN. Even if you’re not in the plans to design a new website, Stylify Me is an excellent platform to get a better understanding of how your competitors use color in association with their brand messaging.
Try composing your color scheme with the mindset that your product or service is different from the other offerings out there, but one whose differences warrant attention.
Of course, there are many ways to achieve an optimal color design. Have you experienced design success with color schemes outside of these tools and tips?