Surely choosing the colour, or colours, for your brand can’t be that hard. Pick some nice hues, ensure they don’t clash, finish things off with nicely positioned photography or wording, that’s it isn’t it? Unfortunately, when designing brands, people all too often overlook the importance and significance of colour, ignoring or maybe just not understanding the implications of poorly chosen colours.

Colour is more than just a physiological reaction resulting from different wave lengths of light in our eyes. Colour acts as a language; its meaning is influenced by the culture and context in which it is experienced. Colours signify and represent reality; for example, red is universally understood as a ‘flag’ for danger, stop, warning, and so on. But how does colour operate to signify these meanings to us, and how much effect does this really have on your brand?

The perception of colour is a two way process. From a psychological perspective, colour can activate learned responses such as social imprinting, cultural associations etc, which directs and drives particular behaviour (red equals danger, danger equals exercise caution, therefore we don’t cross the road when the traffic crossing displays the red man). Secondly, from a physiological perspective, colours can activate inherent, unlearned responses; responses that are seemingly ‘inbuilt’ in all of us. Using red again, it is known and well documented that depending on the strength of the colour and length of exposure to this particular colour, our blood pressure rises and our heart rate and respiration will go up. The colour red literally excites us.

Perhaps we don’t pay enough attention to our responses to colour because these reactions occur unconsciously to most people. Maybe this is why we see brands that ‘just don’t feel right’. Next week, I will explore the implications of colour choice and how your brand can harness the potential of colour.