Graphic Language: Color is Important. Show It!

Often I see designer’s displaying all their logos in their portfolio in black and white. Its frustrating to see, because showcasing everything in black and white cuts out a large part of the design decisions you put into the work, and kills part of the branding message. Its critical to choose the right palette to communicate the company’s messages. The visual “tone of voice”, and even brand archetype, can change with a slight color adjustment (such as royal blue to navy blue) so dropping color all together makes an even bigger impact.

“Color is used to evoke emotion and express personality. It stimulates brand association and accelerates differentiation.“ – Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler

This is not a case against using black and white in logo design. Sometimes color isn’t needed because the brand is expressed best through black and white. And of course, you should build your logo in black and white before adding color. The addition of color will emphasize who the mark is for and what its all about. In the very least, it can help separate a company from its competitors, pulling from the Von Restorff theory that something that is different in a group stands out and is more memorable. You have you portfolio to showcase all of your skills to clients, so don’t forget about your important color decisions.

“In the sequence of visual perception the brain reads color after it registers a shape and before it reads content. Choosing a color for a new identity requires a core understanding of color theory, a clear vision of how the brand needs to be perceived and an ability to master a consistency and meaning over a broad range of media.” - Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler

When im looking through a portfolio and I see every logo set in black and white, im not getting the full story of the designers skills. I don’t know if they are able to choose proper color palettes, or why they are content with cutting out a large portion of their work process/decisions, or more importantly what these logos truly represent. Color effects our moods, our buying decisions, our appetites, even our blood pressure. Its critical in branding that you use it properly and important to show that you CAN use it properly.

“We are all persuaded, moved, aroused, challenged, inspired, repulsed, warned, and informed by colors. And though each of us perceives color uniquely, there is an amazing amount of commonality in our reactions to color across culture and time.” – Color Index, Jim Krause

Choosing colors is my favorite part of the design process with each project. Heres a few ideas to help in choosing palettes.

- Start with 1 or 2 colors that most communicate what you want (refer to the design brief). Then add the accents and secondarys
- Give those colors names. It will help in communicating the right message and choosing compliments.
- Is the color/palette distinctive from competitors?
- Is it appropriate to the type of business?
- Will it have sustainability? (does it need to or can it be trendy?)
- Is the color/palette reminiscent to any other business, product, or service?
- Can you achieve consistency across media? (web, print, embroidery, etc.)
- Test the color in its environment if possible
- When all else fails, remember 1.) nature 2.) 3.) Home Depot/Lowes paint departments

Other Color Resources and Recommendations:

- Color Index, Jim Krause
- Designing Brand Identity, Alina Wheeler
- Pantone books
- paintings by Cyril Rolando
- magazines
- fashion
- graffiti and street art
- photography