Brand Identity: The Importance Of Color

Brad VanAuken The Blake ProjectNovember 6, 200638943 min

Color is an important consideration in your brand identity system. Colors have a significant impact on people’s emotional state. They also have been shown to impact people’s ability to concentrate and learn. They have a wide variety of specific mental associations. In fact, the effects are physiological, psychological, and sociological.

For instance:

  • Non-primary colors are more calming than primary colors.
  • Blue is the most calming of the primary colors, followed closely by a lighter red.
  • Test takers score higher and weight lifters lift more in blue rooms.
  • Blue text increases reading retention.
  • Yellow evokes cheerfulness. Houses with yellow trim or flower gardens sell faster.
  • Reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Red also makes food more appealing and influences people to eat more.  (It is no coincidence that fast food restaurants almost always use these colors.)
  • Pink enhances appetites and has been shown to calm prison inmates.
  • Blue and black suppress appetites.
  • Children prefer primary colors. (Notice that children’s toys and books often use these colors.)
  • Forest green and burgundy appeals to the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans and often raises the perceived price of an item.
  • Orange is often used to make an expensive item seem less expensive.
  • Red clothing can convey power.
  • Red trim is used in bars and casinos because it can cause people to lose track of time.
  • White is typically associated with cool, clean and fresh.
  • Red is often associated with Christmas and orange with Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • Red and black are often associated with sexy and seductive and are favored by porn sites.
  • Black clothes make people look thinner.
  • Black is also associated with elegance and sophistication. It also seems mysterious.
  • Black is the favorite color of Goths.

Colors also have a functional impact on readability, eye-strain, ability to attract attention, ability to be seen at night, etc. This is important in choosing colors for signing, website pages, prints ads, and other marketing media.

  • The most visible color is yellow.
  • The most legible of all color combinations are black on yellow and green on white followed by red on white.
  • It is no surprise that most traffic signs use these color combinations.
  • Black on white is the easiest to read, on paper, and on computer screens.
  • Hard colors (red, orange and yellow) are more visible and tend to make objects look larger and closer. They are easier to focus upon. They create excitement and cause people to over-estimate time.
  • Soft colors (violet, blue and green) are less visible and tend to make objects look smaller and further away. They aren’t as easy to focus upon. They have a calming effect, increase concentration, and cause people to under-estimate time.

Usually, it is advantageous for a brand to consistently “own” certain colors, which provide an additional recognition cue. The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York has taken a different, but equally effective approach. They intended to communicate that they are a fun and vibrant organization that features much more than artistic black and white photography. So, the “e” icon in their logo appears in a rainbow of colors.  Each business card features the logo with a different color. The name itself always only appears in black and white.

Obviously, colors are an important part of any brand identity system. Testing the affect of a new brand identity system’s colors is well advised.  It is important to consider that color associations will vary by individual, and especially culture, due to the cultural context and previous experiences with the colors.  All of the impacts of colors are equally true of music, scents and sounds.  For instance, studies have identified that music has an impact on supermarket sales, mental concentration, achievement on standardized tests, factory productivity, clerical performance and staff turnover, among other things.

Primary source: “Color Psychology: Meanings and Effects of Colors”

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Brad VanAuken The Blake Project


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    January 20, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    Your comment on owning a color is something businesses who take their brand seriously should consider. From my perspective, color is an icon as much as the swish is an icon to Nike. To own a color, it must be different.

    We regularly analyze competitive color use when addressing a brand. We are looking for opportunities of color. Once established, choosing colors to own is much easier. Clustering typically shows how competiting businesses follow the leader in this area.

    From this differentiating perspective, we can now take psychology into account.

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