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I’ve done plenty of colour theory research in the past but it’s important to put it into the context of what I’m doing to make sure I don’t make any mistakes.

“The psychology of color as it relates to persuasion is one of the most interesting — and most controversial — aspects of marketing.

At Help Scout we believe the problem has always been depth of analysis. Color theory is a topic of complexity and nuance, but splashy infographics rarely go beyond See ‘n Say levels of coverage.

Green Lantern can’t turn lemons into lemonade and I’m left equally unequipped to make smart decisions about the spectrum which shades our world. But why is such a potentially colorful conversation so unwaveringly shallow?”


“Misconceptions around the psychology of color

As research shows, it’s likely because

personal preference, experiences, upbringing, cultural differences, and context muddy the effect individual colors have on us. 

So the idea that colors such as yellow or purple are able to evoke some sort of hyper-specific emotion is about as accurate as your standard palm reading.

But there’s still plenty to learn and consider if we humbly accept that concrete answers aren’t a guarantee. The key is to look for practical ways to make decisions about color.


The importance of colors in branding

First let’s address branding, which is one of the more important issues relating to color perception and the area where many articles on this subject run into problems.

As mentioned, there have been myriad attempts to classify consumer responses to different individual colors:”

“Ask the right questions

So how do you get to a final colour scheme? As with any branding project, it’s about asking the right questions to get to the core of the brand.

For Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, these include: what does your brand stand for? What message do you want to convey, and how can colour help you tell the story? Who is the consumer?

And if you’re targeting a global audience, will local cultural meanings be ascribed to the colours used – does the palette need to be modified to reflect this? “

“However, in the early stages of projects, we’re often looking for varied points of reference. In a saturated market, it’s becoming harder to truly ‘own’ a colour, so we try to employ far-flung points of references to help surprise or create something memorable and unexpected. This could come from working with real materials, spending time photographing subjects or browsing the local bookshop.”

“Colour ideas in the design process

“Every design element is considered with the same intensity, because in combination, they form a graphic equaliser to convey just the right level of distinction, relevance and authenticity for the brand’s new face.”

However, just because Interbrand doesn’t have a set formula for working with colour, doesn’t mean there isn’t a process for arriving at the perfect palette. “Very early on we ideate around the brand personality, and this builds an initial hypothesis in the minds of the designers,” Daun explains.

“The development process is then about defining not just the core colours, but the proportions used, the way they are used or what they are used for. Every decision focuses the final story to one of clarity and cohesion.”

Whatever you do, she warns, don’t confuse standing out in the market with shouting. “For a long time, to make a brand stand out, designers have been using really bright colours, but it’s the equivalent of shouting.

“All of a sudden everyone was using magenta pink, it was like: ‘Hello, look at me!’ You might stand out, but is that colour actually saying what your brand is about? You must be giving the right message.”

The key, as always, is to be authentic. “People have an emotional connection with colour first. Then we take in the shapes, the logo, and we read the words,” says Haller. “If we sense a mismatch, it’s the colour we don’t believe, despite the beautifully crafted words.”



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