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What's in a colour?

What’s in a colour? The many considerations when picking brand palettes

 

In Pantone’s words, their 2022 Colour of the Year, Very Peri, has a “courageous presence [that] encourages personal inventiveness and creativity”.

Pushing it perhaps. But it’s got us thinking about the considerations that go into choosing colours when it comes to brands. Facebook, Coca-Cola, Cadbury’s, WhatsApp and countless other big companies instantly evoke certain colours. You can’t think Coke without thinking red. And while a brand can never truly own a colour, once you pair it with another basic element – a shape, a graphical device – the result can be instantly identifiable.

Visual shortcuts are one way to go. Green is an immediate signifier for anything environmental, while white tends to convey simplicity – think Apple. And certain sectors lean towards particular colours, e.g. red in the restaurant sector (warmth maybe?), blue in comms (clarity?), black in high-end retail (elegance?).

But there’s always something to be said for breaking from the pack. When thinking about a brand’s colour palette, it’s essential to examine sector competitors. Is there an easy visual way to stand out, make people sit up and pay attention? Does the risk of homogeneity outweigh the risk of offering up the wrong connotations? Is a distinctively orange environmental charity really wise? Or a brown phone network? And for international brands, thought around the connotations of colours in different cultures is certainly required.

There are of course many other considerations. Where are people more likely to see your brand colour – on screen or in print? Screen colours are bright, print less so – how does this change things? And if you’re considering colour vision deficiency, can you focus more on the kind of texture and contrast that transcends colours?

We’re not sure if Very Peri will be hanging around by 2023; we hope it delivers on the personal inventiveness front. But the ongoing wrestling over colours, and their various meanings, is here to stay.