The Artsy Fartsy Psychology of Color

When it comes to creating color palettes for a brand identity, its like the cherry on a sundae for designers. Is there a designer who doesn't love branding? That answer is empirically "no". Do all of them love color palettes? Meh.... Color is a finicky lover. It requires bold gestures while also having a technical and tender hand with getting it "just right". Its not for everyone. I recall my color theory course in my painting degree was a little bit torturous. But like most challenging learning experiences, I finished with a stronger understanding of color and 314 pieces of Color-aid paper. I still can't talk myself into throw out that box of paper chips. 

Flaky Relationships
Oftentimes the difference between a winning palette and a losing one is not as simple as knowing how to use the words "secondary" "complementary" and "pop" in your presentation. Frequently, what I see missing from a product or branding concept is exacting those color schemes in terms of hue (pure color) , shade (color + black), tint (color + white) and tone (color + gray (or b&w). You have a client who just says it 'doesn't feel right' and you followed the general rules...you probably neglected tones, tines and shades. Get specific!

 

Feelings & History
The generally more challenging portion of color creation is their psychology - how they influence audience, their historical, personal and cultural baggage. Luckily, as a designer, when faced with many subjective and differing feelings on colors - while color is an emotive and subjective thing, its also really old. ;) Color has history and that means you have a lot of data to pull from. Let the fact that you didn't invent Eggplant Purple to your advantage! Its okay to hate purple, but lets talk about what purple means in context of the brand, the audience, the society and times we live in! How does it work in the existing palette? Does it play well in all brand applications? How does it differ or fit in with the current competition? 

Kings (and one Prince) wore purple.

Kings (and one Prince) wore purple.

Give your color selections legs with some fine tuning and a historical and competitive logic and you will spend less time debating which and more talking about why

 

Emily Bunnell