Using Applied Color Psychology to Style Attractive Brands
“It’s not about creating a logo or a color palette. It’s about communicating the essence of your brand. Your brand values and personality. And using the power of psychology to do that at a subconscious level.”
Using applied color psychology, a system based on art, science, and psychology to style your brand, removes the subjective nature usually given to making design choices. This tool gives creatives, business owners, and entrepreneurs confidence knowing that the messages they are sending with their design choices are communicating the positive aspects of their brands.
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|Positive & Negative Effects of Color
Each of the eleven main colors has positive and negative aspects that we instinctively recognize. These aspects transcend demographics - they are innate.
For example, studies have shown that the color red increases our heart rate and blood pressure. This is a physical property of red that transcends cultural boundaries.
That is not to say that we don't have learned associations with certain colors that we pick up through culture. The difference is that the cultural associations can be unlearned or changed, and the innate responses we have to color cannot.
Each color has the ability to trigger either a positive or a negative response in humans, dependent upon the other colors around it. Color harmony can be compared to musical harmony. If there is just one wrong note out of key, it can throw off the entire piece of music, and it is the same with color. One wrong color in a piece causes disharmony, triggering the negative response of that color.
Evolutionarily this worked to keep us safe. You know the difference between green rotten food and soft green moss to sit on. What surrounds each work to communicate which to avoid and which to gather.
Applying to Brand Identity Creation
The same applies to branding. If you use colors in your brand color palette that are harmonious, they will communicate the positive aspects you want to communicate.
If there is just one color out of harmony, it will throw off the whole piece and trigger us to respond to the negative aspects of the colors used in the palette.
If you want your brand to cause disharmony, you could use this to your advantage and make sure to include colors from at least two of the harmonious groups. However, if you are like most brands, and want people to respond positively to what you offer, then it is important to choose one harmonious color group and choose all your colors from that.
The Four Harmonious Color Groups
The four harmonious color groups were discovered by world-renowned British color psychologist Angela Wright, who runs the color consultancy Colour Affects in London. Within these groupings, each color has properties that are similar to those properties of others in the same group, and dissimilar to all those outside the group. The properties they share are based on their lightness, saturation, and value.
The four groups Angela identified are Group 1: Spring/Morninglight, Group 2: Summer/Dreamlight, Group 3: Autumn/Firelight, and Group 4: Winter/Starlight.
Beyond color, each group also contains specific graphic elements and styles that together are harmonious, making styling your brand so much simpler once you have chosen a main group.
Spring colors are clear, delicate, and warm and contain white.
Summer colors are cool, soft, and muted, and contain gray.
Autumn colors are rich, firey, and intense, and contain yellow.
Winter colors are cold, and either very light, very dark, or very intense. Black and white fall into this category.
You'll notice the text in the opening seasonal images above changes depending upon the season. While Autumn and Winter look like the same shade, as you can see in these swatches they are in fact very different.
Which brings up another important key to color - we hardly ever view a single color in isolation. Hence the way to determine which harmonious color group a color belongs to is to look at it surrounded by lots of already identified colors from the same group.
Using the Four Groups to Create a Magnetic Brand Identity
Color psychology points the way to creating strong brands that convey exactly the messages you want to send.
Here's the formula:
A brand that CLEARLY communicates the messages you want to send.
When creating your brand, start with the personality traits that you want to be known for. It helps to also come up with a list of the traits you don't want to be known for. Once you have a list of about 3-6 traits that you want people to associate with your brand, you can then see which of the four color groups these traits align with.
Here is a sample of the personality traits of each group:
- Group 1 - Youthful, full of life, sparkly, fun loving, upbeat
- Group 2 - Cool, calm, collected, organized, graceful, elegant
- Group 3 - Fiery, intense, philosophical, earthy, research-based
- Group 4 - Dramatic, high-end, extreme, low cost, flair, sophistication
Once you have chosen a color group based on your brand's personality traits, that points the way to the specific design elements you have to chose from to style your brand.
These design elements include fonts, shapes, textures, tone of voice, really any element that you will use in your branded content.
What makes this especially helpful for designers, is that once you have chosen a color group, you can get rid of 75% of design options and focus in on the remaining 25%.
For example, if you have a Spring business, you will only want to look at font choices that fit into the spring group - fonts that are lightweight and airy. You can skip past anything heavy, classic, or with texture.