Updated: Jun 28, 2020
In the first couple of years of business money is usually tight and spending it on design and branding is rarely a priority and I sincerely agree with this. First, you need to know if there is a market for what you are called to create, then you need to test it and refine it as you discover your ideal client and you build the basic frameworks and systems for your business. You’ll also be learning lots about yourself but more on that another time. All that said I’m well aware there are so many more people who will create their own brand than those who will hire a designer or brand expert like me, so until then you’re ready to invest in a professional designer use these 5 steps to choose your brand palette.
Now before you get started one vital point. Make it all about them – your clients and not about you. Business is a needs fulfilling machine and unless you are satisfying your clients needs you won’t have a business, so you’ll never be able to hire me. Now, if your most favourite colour in the world is candy floss pink but you work with macho blokes in construction, Glowing pink is unlikely to cut it even if your brand voice is super contrary and super revolutionary. Conversely if you are selling cupcakes a monochromatic black and white is only likely to work if they are ‘All Blacks’ supporters and your cupcakes are decorated with a white fern. So, like all things branding make your customer the hero and feel into what will make them positively disposed towards you. Your colour palette is the show part of ‘show and tell’. Make your visuals work for you. And know that . . .
Believe me it does, 90% of people’s choices on packaging are decided in 90 seconds, and 90% of those choices are based on colour. This brings us to your relationship with colour. Some people love colour, others wear black, (only joking) and some give colour a wide pass: they wear beige which for the purposes of this article is a neutral palette. Colour is everywhere yet so few are confident in choosing colour. If you’re not a designer colour can feel as foreign as India (unless you’re Indian) and creating a colour palette can be as intimidating and anxiety producing as going on a first date with the guy/gal you’ve fancied for eons (for starters which colour will you wear?). Looking at the colour wheel for the first time is akin to an acid trip on steroids. Welcome to strawberry fields forever.
So which colours should you, could you choose?
Breath easy like all art there’s some science to it. Enter colour theory. Colour theory teaches you how to best mix and match colours. Basically, you can have complementary (opposites on the colour wheel), analogous (close neighbours on the colur wheel) or triadic colours (equally spaced in a triangle on the colour wheel). Once you’ve chosen the main colour for your palette and you’re not sure the best colours that work with it, visit Adobe Kuler. You’ll love it, it generates colour palettes based on the aforementioned colour theory rules. Thank you Adobe, how good is that?
Your colour palette is a core brand asset in your Brand Style Guide and will make the job of choosing the colours of your website, social media, email signature and everything brand related much simpler. Defining the colour palette for your business is part of the branding process. Let’s get colouring
01: Know your ideal client
Before you embark on colour choice you need to know who you are, why you do what you do, the value you deliver and specifically for whom. Revisit your mission and vision and get really clear on your ideal client. If you are in dream up or start up mode, answer the questions below to create an ideal client avatar:
What age is your ideal client? Under 28? Over 36? Between 31 and 50
What’s their gender? Is your work gender specific?
Where does your ideal client live? City? Village? Countryside? Europe? Global?
What’s the #1 problem they want solved?
What are their dreams, goals, aspirations, doubts?
What’s between them and their goals?
Choose colours your clients resonate with and trust in industry you work in. Branding is a shorthand, colour is a part of that, so what colours reinforce your unique message.
Step 2: Create a Mood Board
First up what’s a mood board I hear you say. It’s a collage of images, patterns, icons, type and all sorts of graphics that show the feel, and you guessed it, the mood of your business. Creating a mood board is everyone’s favourite part of the process. It’s certainly one of mine. I mean what man, woman and child doesn’t love to get lost in the wonderful world that is Pinterest
Now so you don’t find yourself still there with no dinner cooked and children unwashed: set a timer. Give yourself 2 hours or less. Break that down into 30 minutes for gathering images. 15 minutes for first edit. 15 minutes for final edit which will give you 10-15 elements all up. Yes, less is more and enough feels plenty. More on this below
Selecting images for your mood board
Create a private board and name it ‘My Beautiful Brand’ or use the name of your business.
Here’s some inspiration from one of my Pinterest boards
Do this meditation to bring you into your neutral mind. This is so you just don’t get carried away pinning pretty pictures you like.
Look at the qualities and values of your ideal client. This is your target audience. Ask what would they love, what would they be attracted to
Now step into their shoes and imagine that you are your ideal client. How do you would want to feel when you encounter and interact with your brand.
Now you’re tuned into your ideal client, start pinning to your board. Make sure you gather some patterns, typography, logos of brands you love, icons and anything that supports your ‘brand look and feel.
Now let’s put your board together
Gather about 20-30 images in your private board, it’s time to put those together. You can use any software you want for this. I use Illustrator or here’s a board I created on Canva. Use it as a template
Step 3: Take the colours from your mood board
As a next step, you can extract colours from your mood board. There are several tools that can help you do that.
Use Adobe Colors or Canva’s Color Palette Generator. All you need to do is upload your mood board and the software will detect the colours automatically. Don’t worry you can modify them which brings us to . . .
Step 4: Refine your colour palette
You’re almost there, this is the final step in colour heaven or hell depending on your proclivities. Wherever you’re dwelling, with or without design experience, you still want to create something really professional, so hang in there with the colours the palette generator gods have bestowed on you, and go here to the colour psychology chart. You see, certain colours are associated with certain emotions and depending on the feeling you are trying to communicate, discover if you are working with the corresponding colour in the chart. Be aware what is ‘normal’ in your market, then in your market niche, then refine it to make it your own. Similarly you can look at the colours brands similar to yours are using. Just a reminder, the whole purpose of branding is differentiation so you won’t want to be copying anyone else’s colours or their brand look and feel, because obviously it won’t look or feel like yours. Duh! Now before I go . . .
Take action now
Create a blog banner, or apply your new colours to your instagram tile. There’s nothing more wonderful that applying what you have learned and seeing how it works in your world. I hope you’re feeling happy with your colours and congratulation you now know the basic art and science of colour and I trust have the confidence to apply your brand palette in your business! Share your good work me on insta #eilishbouchier