After spending our lifetimes studying color, whether through preschool coloring books or college art class, I’m betting we all have a pretty good understanding of what color is, from the ubiquitous ROYGBIV to secondary hues like fuschia or the (rather devilish) cerulean blue. Our world is infused with color both natural and artificial, and it influences how we go about our lives more than we realize.
When you look at something, your brain interprets the information in a specific sequence. Visual perception is key: the brain reads color after it registers a shape, but before it reads words. This means that color is pretty important for classification and comprehension, so we are wired to understand it. Color also evokes emotions, stimulates associations, and creates differentiation or unity. Naturally, these components are vital to brands, as they aim to attract consumers before and after purchase.
As one of the first and most lasting impressions a brand makes, colors are crucial and aren’t chosen arbitrarily. They also don’t exist in a vacuum, so the process of choosing a color palette is complex and rigorous. A brand’s palette is one of the most essential components of its identity. We don’t need to read the logo on the iconic red can to know it’s a Coca Cola, or the label on the shelf to recognize the blue packaging of the drool-inducing OREO. Instead we intuit; we know the brand because we see their colors.
This past week, I got to sit down with our designers to talk shop about color and how they go about actually choosing a color palette.
Here’s what I learned:
Choosing brand colors is clearly not as simple as just picking your childhood favorite or spinning the wheel and pointing your finger. Not only are the meanings behind colors complex and highly nuanced, but the process of determining them is intricate and almost always iterative. A color palette is a central design element of any brand, and in many ways a ‘make it or break it’ one.
My biggest takeaway is this: leave it to the experts and call a designer!
Huang, Swin. Personal Interview. February 21, 2018.
Losser, Chad. Personal Interview. February 21, 2018.
Paquette-Boulva, Maude. Personal Interview. February 21, 2018.
Originally published at medium.com