The Language of Color and Visual Identity

Sam DeMastrie

December 3, 2013

Recently, Jibe had the pleasure of presenting logo color concepts for a new brand we’re helping to develop. In one of our discussions with the client, we covered their new color scheme and the respective symbolism or attributes. Preceeding the meeting, I had the opportunity to explore the meaning of color as it relates to a brand’s identity.

People have always prescribed meaning to color and continue to do so today. There’s a reason why February is pink and red and October is orange and black; blue is cold and yellow is warm; bright green is fresh and energetic (Jibe!).

When trying to identify a set of colors for a brand, there are a few key considerations:

1. Brand

Above all else, a color has to fit the nature and personality of the brand. Don’t rely on the opinions of your friends or significant other. Ask the brand what colors it should to be.

Somewhere during the beginning of the brand discovery phase, a creative brief or brand report should be written, and it’s from here that you’ll draw much of your inspiration. Look for key words and phrases that can act as color cues: warm and welcoming, peace of mind, traditional, credible, etc. These will all point you in a certain color direction.

2. Competitive Market

Another major consideration when deciding on a color scheme is the look of current competitors. Can you imagine the confusion of a world in which Apple and Microsoft branded themselves with the same colors? Or Coke and Pepsi?

Everyone knows it’s important to be unique if you hope to be stand out in the eyes of your target audience. This includes being fully aware of who your competition is and what they look like.

3. Target Audience

How will your audience respond to color? Much has been written (and debunked) about the psychology of color as it relates to marketing and brand strategy. Although it’s true that some colors have undeniable symbolism and communicative power, nothing is safe from subjectivity. A person’s own opinions will always come into play, so stay away from specific pie-in-the-sky color messages—they might not always stick.

Always be aware of your audience and competitors when choosing color for a visual identity, but don’t let them dictate your choices. At the end of the day, what matters most is which colors are appropriate for the message brand. The language of color must be understood.