How can the color of your branding affect your business? What kind of colors should you use for different aspects of your business? How can you go about choosing the right colors for your brand?
In this podcast episode, Sam Carvalho talks about color theory, how color affects your branding, and why it’s important to really consider the colors that you’re using in your branding.
In This Podcast
- Color Theory
- Colors used in the branding of products
- The difference between RGB and CMYK
- Warm colors vs cool colors
- Hue, tint, shade, and tone
- Color schemes
- Adobe color
Colors are organized in a color wheel. This was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666 and they are grouped into 3 main categories:
- Primary (red, yellow, blue)
- Secondary (purple, orange, green)
- Tertiary (blue-green, red-violet) colors
Color is perception – our eyes see something and data sent from our eyes to our brains tells us it’s a certain color.
Colors used in the branding of products
People decide whether or not they like a product in 90 seconds or less and 90% of the time, that decision is based solely on color.
Think about when you’re shopping for a brand you like. Do you look for the logo or the colors?
Example: Coca Cola – The first thing that comes to mind when you think about Coca Cola is the color red. This is because they’ve done so well in choosing their color and have gone all out with their branding, ensuring that the color, the repetition of the color, immediately makes you think of Coke.
The difference between RGB and CMYK
This is an additive color mixing model used for digital color. Reds, greens, and blues are used in their primary format and mixed to provide colors on TVs, screens, projectors, etc. Ensure that you use the correct RGB code when using color in digital format so that you end up with the color that you want and not a murkier version.
This is a subtractive color mixing model used on physical surfaces (ie paper, signage, packaging, etc). Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black allow for a wider variety of colors to be mixed.
Warm colors vs cool colors
Warm colors are associated with energy, brightness, and action, whereas cool colors are associated with calm, peace, and serenity.
Hue, tint, shade, and tone
- Hue – the color in its purest form
- Tint – when white is added to the color
- Shade – when black is added to the color
- Tone – when grey is added to the color
- Complementary – this is when two opposite colors are used. Complementary colors make images pop and offer clear differentiation. Think of red and green used around Christmas. It is effective but can get tiresome.
- Analogous – this is when three colors are used side by side. One-color is the dominant color whilst the other two are accents. Analogous color schemes are pleasing to the eye and effectively direct the customer where and how to take action.
- Triadic – this is a color scheme using three colors equally spaced on the color wheel. These are usually very bright and dynamic and create visual contrast and harmony.
Adobe offers a free tool allowing users to choose color schemes using the color wheel, uploaded images, words, and trends.
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Meet Sam Carvalho
Sam Carvalho is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, South Africa, with over five years of experience in both design and marketing, with a special interest and experience in the start-up environment.
She has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs take their practices to the next level by enhancing their visual branding. She loves working with a variety of clients on design-intensive tasks and is always up for a challenge!
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Welcome to the Marketing a Practice podcast with me, Sam Carvalho, where you will discover everything you need to know about marketing and branding your business. To find out more about how I can help you brand your business, visit www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign.
Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me on the Marketing a Practice podcast today. I’m so excited you’re here with me. Today, we’re going to be tackling the topic of color theory, and how color affects your branding and why it’s important to really consider the colors that you’re using in your branding and to really think about the meaning behind the colors and the kind of feeling that people are going to feel when they look at those colors. So it’s something that I think a lot of people maybe overlook, or maybe just resort to kind of the day like when it comes to choosing their branding, but it’s really quite involved and I obviously won’t go too in-depth at the risk of boring you today. But, I do think it’s an important topic to cover when it comes to branding.
So, kind of starting with the very basic, basic color theory is, as you know, colors are organized in a color wheel. And this is something that you most likely will have experienced when you were a kid, learning about all the colors of the color wheel. So the color wheel was actually designed by Sir Isaac Newton way back in 1666 and we’ve been using it ever since. And it’s been kind of the foundation of color theory ever since. And as we know it within the color wheel colors are grouped into three main categories. So these are primary, which is your red, yellow, and blue. Then you get secondary, which are the colors that are as a result of mixing primary colors, including green, orange, and purple. And you then get your tertiary colors, which are as a result of mixing primary and secondary colors and those are things like your blue-green, or red-violet. So those get a lot more involved and a lot more complex.
One of the reasons why it is so important to really put some thought into the colors that you use when it comes to branding is because ultimately, color is a perception. So I see something and data is then sent from our eyes to our brains to tell us that it’s a certain color. So think about when you go grocery shopping, for example, and most of you who do grocery shopping on a regular basis will have brands that you prefer. And because you’ve bought that product so many times, you know what the packaging looks like. So when you come to a section of say, noodles, you are going to look for the specific packaging of the brand that you like. But what you’re essentially going to look for is the color, you’re not going to really bother with the exact logo of that company, you’re going to be looking for the color. And so as you can see when it comes to branding, and when it comes to brand, recognition, and being loyal to a certain brand, it’s the color of that brand that sticks in your mind. And obviously, if you have to think of Coca Cola, whose branding is phenomenal, and I mean everyone throughout the world knows about Coca Cola, the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Coca Cola is red, the color red. And that’s because they’ve done so well in choosing their color, but in really going all out with the branding and ensuring that that color, that repetition of that color immediately makes you think of Coke. So another interesting thing that I read is that people decide whether or not they like a product in 90 seconds or less. And 90% of that decision is based solely on color. So, you might be thinking that people are choosing whether to go for counseling with you based on the quality of your service, and of course, that’s involved, but a lot of it may have to do with simply the color of your branding and the color of your website and whether that evokes feelings of calm or happiness within them or if it evokes, you know, even more panic waves and more stress depending on what they’re going through. So you really want to think carefully about the colors that you use within your branding.
So a bit of theory that I wanted to go through, just so that you’re aware of this when it comes to using colors in your branding, digitally versus on print is the difference between RGB and CMYK. Okay, so I’m not sure how many of you would have heard of this or are familiar with it. But RGB is basically the digital color format. And CMYK is the print color format. That’s kind of a basic way to put it. So, RGB is made up of red, green, and blue and this is what TVs, screens, and projectors use. So essentially, all the colors that you’re seeing on your screen are different variations of this red, green, and blue to result in the color that you’re seeing. And what’s interesting is that RGB is an additive color mixing model, whereas CMYK is a subtractive color mixing model. And that’s where things kind of get in-depth and I, as I said, in the beginning, I don’t want to bore you but let’s say that you have a very distinctive brand with a bright yellow logo. If you post this logo on Facebook or Twitter or your website and you don’t use the correct color process, your logo will appear muddy instead of that bright yellow. So that’s just an example of why it’s important to ensure that once you’ve chosen the colors that you want to use in your branding, that you kind of ensure that you get the correct RGB codes for that color. So that when you’re displaying it digitally on your website, on your social media platforms, the correct color is coming through and it’s not maybe a less appealing version of that color. Because as you know, and as we covered in the beginning when it comes to tertiary colors and things like that, you can literally get thousands if not millions of different kinds of variation of a color. And it could be the difference between someone engaging well with your content or someone rejecting that content. So you really want to make sure that you get those correct codes. Then CMYK is made up of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, and this then allows for a wide variety of colors to be mixed. So, this is obviously when it comes to print and you can then print out even more colors than our screens are able to display. So the CMYK is used for, as I said, printing, signing, packaging, things like that. And as I mentioned earlier, this is a subtractive color mixing model. So, basically, the nuts and bolts of it is that when you decide on the colors that you want for your branding, they will have each color will have an RGB code and a CMYK code and the files will either be in RGB or CMYK and basically, you’ll need to send those CMYK color codes to any printers that you’re dealing with. And you’ll need to send those RGB codes to any graphic designers that you’re dealing with. So that’s kind of just why I wanted to tell you about that because it does have a practical side to it, where you need to know kind of what color codes you need to use for which person.
So, we also, when it comes to color theory, are dealing with another way to kind of categorize colors is in the warm versus cool section. And if you’re looking at a color wheel, you’ll see that it’s broken up as such, I think the warm colors will kind of be on the left and the cool colors will be on the right. And these come with associated meanings and evoke certain feelings as well. So usually, your warm colors, your reds, and yellows, and oranges, are associated with energy and brightness and action, which is why it’s kind of thought or a best practice for call to actions is to have them in an orange. And so it’s always kind of a good idea to keep that in mind that when you want somebody to take action, you’ll use a warm color. Cool colors, on the other hand, are identified with calm with feelings of being calm, of being peaceful, and serenity. And that’s why you’ll see that on most counseling websites, you guys are making use of cool colors. And there’s a reason behind that and some of you might feel that you want to stand out from the crowd and that you want to use colors that aren’t within that kind of cool category. And although, as I’ve mentioned before, standing out from the crowd is something you want to consider, there’s also a reason why all or not all but why most private practices or counseling, companies use cool tones. And so I would say, you know, rather try and stand out within the convention so make use of cool colors that maybe cool colors that not a lot of other people have used. Or try find a color scheme that’s a little bit different from others but that still kind of evokes those feelings of calm and peace and serenity. So that’s another thing that you just want to be considering when you are thinking of colors to include in your branding is whether they are more on the warm or cool spectrum and what kind of feelings get evoked when the user interacts with those colors.
So hitting back to another bit of theory, just for you to kind of know, is terms like hue, tint, shade, and tone. So hue is basically a pure color. So, this is when nothing has been done to the color. It literally just appears as it was originally intended to, whereas a tint is when a little bit of white has been added to that color. Shade is when a little bit of black has been added and tone is a little bit of gray has been added. And that’s where you’re able to get so many different variations of a similar color. And you might like the tinted version of a color or the toned version of a color as opposed to the actual original color. So that’s just another little bit of theory for you.
And then heading on to color schemes and how you can actually create color schemes for your brand and what you kind of need to consider when it comes to creating color schemes. So traditionally, a color scheme consists of five different colors, and it really depends on the color scheme, but I would say that usually or what I would recommend is having one bold color within that color scheme. One kind of dark, strong color. Three accent colors that can be a bit softer. And the reason why I say that is because when you’re choosing a color scheme, you need to think of all the uses that you’re going to put that color scheme to. So, for example, if we just look at a website, you would then use the strong dark color for your text. So you never want to be using a light color for your text, which can be difficult for users to read. You want to make sure that it’s close. If you’re not using black, you want to make sure that it’s close to black then it’s a dark navy or a dark green, you know something to that effect, something that pops out that’s easy to read. You then want to have a bold color that you can use for your call to actions. And as I said earlier, consider having a warmer bold color because as we know, as we’ve now discovered, that initiates action. But having a bold color that kind of stands out from the rest, that shows somebody that that’s something that they need to be focusing on. And then the rest of the accent colors can then be softer than those two, and that’s what you can kind of use for backgrounds or for icons or anything to then kind of accentuate those two bolder, stronger colors. And so the accent colors is what’s used to kind of direct the eye and direct the person to where you want them to go on your website. So that’s how you can kind of think of how you’re going to use the color scheme for your website but it’s similar across any kind of platform across your logo, across any kind of design. So how you’re going to use those color scheme, that color scheme within your logo, how you’re going to use it with your social media graphics, with your print material, you want to make sure that it’s a color scheme that is adaptable to any kind of design, and that will work for any kind of design and also bearing in mind that you don’t need to always use all the colors from the color scheme. I mean, obviously at times, you’ll need to use one or two colors, but it’s nice to kind of have all five of those colors at your disposal, so that you can create different forms of designs, but still maintain your brand consistency.
So we traditionally have three groups of color schemes. These are complementary, analogous, and triadic. So, complementary color skins consists of two colors, and these appear opposite each other on your color wheel. So these usually, when they’re used together, will really make images pop, and they offer clear differentiation. So, you’ll obviously they are contrasting towards each other and so there’s a clear difference between the two. However, they can get tiresome to look at all the time. So if you kind of think of Christmas colors, those are traditionally complementary colors like red and green. And I think there’s a reason why we only see Christmas decorations once a year because if we had to be looking at it all the time, it would be a bit hectic. So, although complementary colors can at times be very effective, you don’t necessarily want to use a complementary color scheme on your website, for example, because it’s going to put somebody off scrolling through it over a long period of time. As I said, it’s aesthetically tiring, so they may after a few minutes, just feel like they need to look at something else. So for websites, you rather want to make use of an analogous color scheme. And I feel like I’m not saying that right, and if I’m not, I do apologize. But anyway, and you can see how it’s spelled in the show notes. So an analogous color scheme includes three colors side by side. So when I said earlier how a color scheme usually consists of five colors, and now I’m talking about two colors and three colors. Usually a color scheme will have kind of two complementary colors that they focus on, but then they’ll add a tint or shade or a tone variation of that color to make up the five, if that makes sense. So an analogous color scheme traditionally consists of three colors, and these appear side by side on the color wheel. So they’re essentially from one color, or a very similar color and so when you’re looking at it, you’ll feel like one color is dominating the color scheme, and the others are accents. So, it’ll be like a blue with two different kind of purples or something like that. And this is more pleasing to the eye than a complementary color scheme, and it also helps to kind of guide the user and show them where to take action. As I was mentioning earlier about how to use a color scheme on your website, an analogous color scheme is perfect for that. And then you’ve got your triadic color scheme, which is three colors which are equally spaced around the wheel. These are again very bright and dynamic, and create a great visual contrast while still being in harmony with one another. So I would say that triadic and complementary color schemes are something to consider when creating a logo or things like that, or maybe an advert or a flyer, kind of once-off things, whereas analogous, if it’s going to be something that the user is going to engage with over a long period of time, so you know, over half an hour or an hour, then I would say, rather make use of an analogous color scheme. But with your logo, you want something that’s going to stick out, that’s going to pop, and that’s obviously going to take up a small amount of space on your print material or on your website. So it’s not like it’s going to be too much in somebody’s face, but it’s still going to be something that they’re then going to remember. So that’s just a bit of theory around color schemes and what to consider when choosing a color scheme. I hope that you found all of this useful and that it hasn’t been too much theory.
One last thing that I want to leave you with is something I mentioned in a previous episode, but I thought I’d go a bit more in-depth into it, as I received some feedback from you guys that you found it really useful. And that is the Adobe Color software. So this is a program that you can use to literally play around with everything that I’ve just mentioned above. So if you visit color.adobe.com, it’s a free platform that you can go onto. And you’ll see straight away that a color wheel pops up. And they actually have options right next to the color wheel of different color schemes that you can make use of and they go even more in-depth than the three that I’ve mentioned in this episode. But, you can then basically choose which color scheme you want to use. So, you can say you want to use a complementary color scheme and it will then kind of populate the color wheel accordingly. And then you can drag, you can use your cursor on the color wheel and you can drag your cursor around the color wheel. And it will then show the complementary color to whatever, wherever you’re dragging your cursor. So it’s really awesome, and it’s really fun to play with and kind of gives you all your options and gives you the associated color codes that you need. So it’s a really great thing to play with. If you’re not sure of what colors you’re wanting to use in your branding. You can spend some time fiddling with that color wheel and coming up with your colors. What’s also really cool is, and I know previously when I worked with clients and I’ve kind of asked them what colors they want to make use of in their designs, they often send me an image or a photograph, and they say they like the colors used in that image. So you can also do that with this program, you can upload an image and the program will actually pull the colors from that image and we’ll create a color scheme for you and again, give you the associated codes. So that’s really awesome. You can also explore and this is what I mentioned in a previous episode, so you can go to the Explore tab and you can type in a color, an emotion, an object, pretty much anything that you are associating with a color. So if for example, you love the ocean, and you want your branding, to kind of portray the ocean in some way, you can literally go into the Explore tab of Adobe Color and type in “Ocean” and it will come up with numerous color schemes that portray the ocean and you can pick one that you associate with best. And again, you can download it to your laptop or to your computer and it will have the correct color codes that you can then send to your designer or your web developer. So I use this all the time when I am designing logos or flyers, I’ll ask the client what it is that they want to communicate through this logo. And if for example, it’s a sense of calm, then I will literally type in calm into the Explore section of Adobe Color, and it will come up with a number of calming color schemes. So it’s really great, it really does all the work for you. And finally, there is also a trend section of Adobe Color, which is really cool. So in the trend section, you can discover different color trends in different industries. And I actually went and typed in counseling and it came up with a bunch of really calming, cool color schemes. And so it was kind of blues but then also browns and beiges kind of comforting color schemes. And so that’s also something that’s really interesting. So, if you are wanting to see kind of what the trend is within your industry or if you’re starting something new, if you’re starting a podcast if you’re starting, you know, workshop or something like that and you want to kind of see what colors are associated with that service or that product, then you can go and type that in within the trends section and they will help you out. So it’s a really great program and I really encourage you guys to check it out.
Alright, that’s it from me for today. I hope that you found this valuable, and I’ll see you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening to the Marketing a Practice podcast. If you need help with branding your business, whether it be a new logo, rebrand, or you simply want to have a print file designed, head on over to www.practiceofthepractice.com/branding. And if you’d like to see some examples of my design work, be sure to follow me on Instagram @samanthacarvalhodesign.
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