Picking brand colors is somewhat of an artform. I think designers and artist really overlook just how much of their own talent and expertise really goes into this. After all, it’s something we do almost day in and day out. So, since we’re so accustom to picking colors, it’s something that at times we don’t pay a lot of thought on as far as the “why” goes. But how to designers pick brand colors?

Those perfect colors that just seem to work everywhere. We’ve all seen them, or perhaps you’ve not. though, I bet you’ve noticed colors that don’t work well together before. There’s something uncomfortable about them. you look at the design of something and you just think “oh, that doesn’t look right…” It could be a myriad of things about the design, like spacing, type, or color choice. Yet, even those who aren’t particularly artistic and don’t have any knowledge of color can usually detect issues when colors clash. Usually quite quickly too. It’s one of the more obvious signs of poor design. However, picking the right colors, colors that pair well, and colors that work to trigger an emotional reaction, or connection to a brand and it’s market takes skillful practice.

 brand color phycology

Color psychology for branding

When it comes to picking the perfect brand colors, there’s a plethora of tactics and reasoning behind the decision making process. Ultimately a client will have specific goals to achieve with their brand. These goals will play a factor in determining colors along with the brand voice and personality. It wouldn’t make much sense to pick pinks and yellows for a masculine men’s hygiene and grooming product typically. This is why it’s so important to gain clarity of your brand before you begin trying to create a visual identity for the brand. Understanding your demographic, brand archetype, and brand voice will help dictate the messaging and appropriate colors to help build that identity. Now, pinks and yellows would likely be good contenders for a feminine brand, I’m sure you’d agree.

Again, there’s so many factors at play it’s almost impossible to pick the perfect colors right away. External factors like the psychological presence of color is also a determining factor in picking brand colors. A brand that focuses on producing healthy natural snacks for hikers, and active outdoors enthusiasts could arguably use lots of different colors. It’s not until you define things like target market and the psychology associated with your brand do you begin to hone in on good possibilities. As an example, greens and browns are often associated with natural, healthy or healthier options when it comes to products. If I asked you to think of some healthy snack, like granola, what brand would first some to mind for you? My guess would be, KIND or Nature Valley, right? Even though there’s quite a few alternatives that are just as good.

Regardless of ingredients, I’m sure less people would pick Cliff bars due to the brighter light blues and reds used in the logo and packaging.

bank logos and brand colors

Our connection to color

The reason more of us are so much more likely to pick the granola bar like Nature Valley’s is because of the subconscious connection our brain makes with the green. Not only is green a “go” color, used commonly for positive reassurance, it’s also a common color found in nature. As such, we associate greens with nature, health, care, wellbeing, and other beneficial or dopamine triggering traits. Think if you will about the types of everyday products and things that are green. Those of you who chew gum I bet can instantly imagine your favorite mint flavor with at least a small amount of green or possibly blue on the packaging to signify fresh mint or ice.

This distinction in color and products and brands can be taken even further. Banks is a great example of a business that uses color psychology in a very interesting way. I’d love to dive deep into this, so perhaps I’ll cover the color psychology behind banks or something in a post at a later date… Though, I bet the idea of banks already has some of you wincing, thinking of some remedial banking task you’d forgotten till now, and a few financial logos at present. I bet it wasn’t H&R Block, am I right?

Feeling blue

I’m sure most of us are aware that color can help trigger emotional responses and feelings. Interestingly, the phrase “feeling blue” is allegedly from around the 1700’s and apparently was used commonly in relation to both the grim reference to a corpse (being a blue hue or tint) or as a reference to being quite bruised a more common saying “black and blue”. Though once a reference to color it’s still used to refer to not being oneself. Though you don’t actually “feel” a particular color. But colors can elicit particular emotional responses and trigger emotions.

The power of color psychology and emotional behaviors’ is quite facilitating. I won’t bore you with the lengthy details, but multiple research has demonstrated how color can impact people in a verity of ways. Some interesting ones are:

Though these are very particular studies, the use of color in specific situations and settings is often a choice made for very specific reasons. Silver for example, is the third most popular color for vehicles due to the sense of innovation. It’s also linked to a sense of modernity, cutting edge technology, and high end tech products.

Obviously color selections we make regarding items for professional applications are also influenced by our tastes and preferences. This type of preference doesn’t play well when it comes to professional branding. As such it’s critical to understand your brand, audience and industry along with your business goals. This is why professional brand designers will often point out reasons for specific design and color choices, as there’s often an industry and psychological reason behind those choices.