Choosing the right hue isn’t just about trends or aesthetics – it can genuinely determine whether the right people engage with your brand or not, increasing the effectiveness of your marketing. 

It’s a funny thing being a designer, sometimes. We make hundreds if not thousands of subliminal micro-decisions on a daily basis. Some are based on past experience, some on client preference, others on personal taste. Most are made on the fly, just small elements in the bigger picture. But right up there with image searches, choosing colours has to be one of the toughest tasks for a creative.

I mean, it’s never easy to make a decision – but choosing the right hue goes far deeper than simply picking a favourite colour (what’s yours?). And unlike interior design, it’s about much more then simply looking at what’s currently trending – see Canva’s 2019 colour trends report here.

But why is that?

Colour psychology

The meaning of colour has been inspiring and baffling creative types for millennia. Artists, designers, engineers, architects and the like know full well that selecting the right colour can change perceptions, affect mood and even influence decisions. Quite how or why is beyond me, but it still fascinates me all the same.

How about interior design. If you need to sit in a room and work, apparently blue will make you more productive. So it can affect mood.

And it can convey meaning. In nature (as in informational signage) red is a warning. But use the right amount and it can focus the attention, stimulate the brain or even prompt action.

A powerful way to influence behaviour

If you need proof that choosing the right colour can affect decisions, just ask Google (see article here on NY Times). After settling on blue for their toolbar in 2009, they then went and tested 41 (forty one!) shades to find the most effective variant. The final choice reputedly garnered them an extra $200m in revenue. Wow. You could literally waste days looking at and testing variations of tints, tones and shades!

Given all this, it stands to reason that when it comes to branding, colour can make a huge difference to the appeal of your brand. And people really do remember colours – we love this exercise by Graham Smith from 2010 – how many brands can you recognise when a logo is reduced to just shapes and colours (see image below)?

Using colour to drive emotional connections

If you want a generally safe bet when it comes to a brand colour (you can then skip the rest of this article), blue is the world’s favourite colour (that’s according to YouGov).

Or if you fancy something different, there are some really big name brands who have very strong associations with colour you could learn from.

Cadbury’s own purple. Apparently that can convey luxury, creativity, mystery, sophistication or even royalty!

Coca Cola is red for youth, boldness, love, power, energy, passion and excitement. I doubt they chose it for the fact it represents aggression or danger anyway.

As for our clients? William Russell are green. HP and Visa are blue. WorldHost is purple. Certitude are yellow. Aruba is orange. You’ll have to guess why.

The choice is (mostly) yours

More often than not, the choice of colour is a legacy – and changing the colour of the logo might have a detrimental effect on brand recall or affinity. In most cases, we as designers have to delicately balance the logo or brand’s existing primary colour/s with a set of complimentary colours which won’t clash or dominate. Which is not as easy as it sounds. And of course it’s all affected by how much of each colour you use. Get the balance wrong and you could completely change the results you achieve.

The bottom line is that if you need to convey a deeper meaning, or connect with people in a certain mindset, you’ll need to look into colour psychology properly to make the best choices.

There are a tonne of resources, research and examples out there – WikiPedia is always a decent starting point. If you’re feeling lazy just google ‘colour meaning’ and have a look through the image results to get an overview. Canva wrote this article as a quick reference.

At the end of the day though, the decision is still ultimately one half subjectivity and one half instinct.

Our advice? Go with your gut – then test it out on the right people.

Swatch out – the right colour makes all the difference