Brand colors can make your site more consistent and more recognizable.
Think of your company as a person. The core values are its soul, the name is the body, the logo is the little black dress, and the brand colors are the accessories that tie it all together.
Great brand colors are a foundational element of a great brand. Getting your brand colors can be tricky. There are some real challenges; like if you pick pink and teal, how do you make it work for Christmas? What about pastels? They look great at Easter, but not so much at Kwanzaa. Before you give up or throw a dart at the Itten color wheel, think about what colors mean to you, then be brave.
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There’s a festival in India called Holi – the festival of colours – Holi marks the last full-moon day of the lunar month and celebrates the beginning of spring and the victory of good over evil. People literally throw colors on each other. The colors mix, and swirl, and drip, and go everywhere. Holi made me see that there is nothing to fear when it comes to color combinations.
So what are the rules for brand colors?
Every year Pantone picks its “Color of the year”. This year was Viva Magenta. It’s a bold choice. The actual Pantone logo is often Black and grey which, it must be said, goes with every color. By picking very neutral main colors, Pantone assures that their logo can work with any color. But Pantone also makes their logo just about every color when it suits them. They are the svenglis of color. Target and Coke just stick with their very specific and copyrighted shades of red. So the rules for Pantone would seem to be different from the rules for Target and Coke. The truth is there aren’t any rules when it comes to color but, before you regret the time you’ve spent reading this post, I’ll share a some helpful guidelines.
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Guidelines for using Brand Colors
Pick colors you like—you will be stuck with them for years and after that it will be harder to change. You can find inspiration for colors in a picture, landscape, flower, or piece of art.
Pick a bold color for your main color unless you are going for a minimalist tone-on-tone look. Again, you can make just about anything work, but you have to be consistent in order for it to be meaningful and recognizable.
Stick with it even when it’s hard. Any color combo can work. Look at Howard Johnson’s for an iconic but unusual pairing. Where things go off the rails brand wise is when folks get bored or scared. Target NEVER moves away from red, Home Depot NEVER moves away from orange. You have to commit.
Start with one color. It’s easier to have one main color than many colors. Lots of iconic brands have one main color, L.L. Bean is green, Target is red, Pacific Life is blue, Home Depot is orange, and so on. I bet you saw the color for each of those brands in your head as you read them.
If you’re brave or a pro add a second. If you want to dial up the color recognition further, go with two colors like McDonalds or Pepsi. At Stylaquin we have two main colors, Stylaquin green and Stylaquin magenta. We also have four additional colors that all work together. I chose the Stylaquin colors so that they’d stand out and get attention. Holi was my inspiration. I love bright colors. But bright colors don’t work for everyone, and we encourage customers to choose whatever color works for their brand when they add Stylaquin to their site. Working with multiple colors adds visual complexity.
Here are a few more tips on working with brand colors.
Create seasonal palettes that work with your main color(s). If you’re a Shopify clothing, fashion and/or accessories store, you will probably have seasonal items, and seasonal sales. Creating palettes ahead of time, and then reusing them, is just one more thing off of your always full plate.
Colors are like flowers, they usually work together, so don’t stress. Think of all the times you’ve seen a bouquet of wild flowers that surprised and delighted you. Colors usually magically go together. Some people have strong opinions about color and that’s okay, but I’ve never seen a garden that clashes. Once you have the basics chosen, you’ll develop go-to combos and things that just work. Forcing it just makes it harder.
You can go with the tide, or against the tide. If you sell things that fly, like kites, choosing sky blue as your main color can work. That’s going with the tide. You can also go against the tide and choose yellow, or orange, which will always pop on blue, Going with the tide typically produces a more calm color palette, Going against the tide usually gives designs more energy.
Play. Designers rarely finish where they start. They play and noodle, and make mood boards, and play some more. Then they let everything sit for a bit. Then they show it around, and then play more, and then finally make a decision. There’s an industry joke: How many Art Directors does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Eleven. One to do it and ten to say “I don’t know, what do you think?”
Consistency is the key to creating recognizable brand colors. Create a document that explains your brand colors and how to use them. Be sure to include the RGB web color codes and the matching CMYK print percentages. When you find an OMG amazing color combo that you love and goes perfectly with your brand color(s), write it down and add it to your palette. Be sure that everyone who contributes to your brand has a copy of the brand colors document, and an understanding of how to use your brand colors.