Given a text editor with a color picker, it seems most people can’t seem to resist choosing and applying different colors to different parts of their websites or newsletters. The result is reminiscent of what might happen if you left a toddler alone in your living room for two hours with several pots of open finger-paints. Any adult would walk into that living room and cringe. And yet, most people don’t see the parallel between slinging paint across their furniture and dropping a fuschia headline into their gray and blue website.
When I try to talk to clients about color, one of the most common remarks they make when I encourage them to limit their palette is, “I just want to be creative.” They don’t realize that most toddlers just want to be creative too, and too much creativity leads to mess and chaos.
To think about color correctly, keep a few basic rules in mind.
color is mood
Every color invokes a mood. Sometimes we feel blue. Stop signs are red because red commands attention. The same is true of your brand’s colors. Think about the emotional experience you want someone to have when they think about your brand, and pick colors accordingly. A good scheme is well-rounded. Make sure you have a dark, legible color for your text, a highlight color that draws the eye, and a mid-range color that can fill a lot of space. You should also have a neutral tone to create breathing room between your colors. If you’re stuck, hire a professional graphic designer to help with this. I’m not kidding. Good color choices give you a direct line of influence over your customers’ emotions. That’s huge.
color is specific
“Blue” cannot be part of your pallet. You need one particular blue. For the internet, that means hex codes. #00fcf3 and #001986 are both blue, but they don’t look anything alike. Being consistent with your colors is important because people care about color, and people recognize color. If you use one blue on your website, another blue in your newsletter, and yet another blue on your Twitter background, it will take much, much longer for your brand to start to resonate. An average person has to see your brand seven times before they remember it. But if you change your colors around, people won’t connect your TV spot to your business card, and you’ll never get there.
color is brand
Once you have your colors DO NOT USE ANY OTHER COLORS AT ALL, EVER. I’m serious. This applies to everything from your business cards to your “sale” banner. This is the number one mistake people make in their marketing materials. If you chose your color scheme wisely, you will have all the colors you need for every situation. All it takes is discipline. When you find yourself reaching for that Thanksgiving cornucopia pallet because fall is in the air, STOP, take a deep breath, and resist the impulse. Nothing will dilute your branding message faster than straying from your color scheme.
color is recognition
Once people have seen your color scheme a few times, they will recognize it. This is oh so powerful for so many reasons. It means a person can be digging through their purse and see the very corner of your business card. They’ll register the colors and your business will pop into their head. They won’t need to read your name or see your logo. You won’t have to send them a follow-up email. All they’ll have to do is glimpse your color scheme, and they will think of you. It’s like magic.