Branding made simple [Part 5]

This is the fifth in a series of Branding posts drawn from my “Branding Made Simple” presentation at The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (Manitoba) Design for Business luncheon series. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


It’s hard to deny the results of countless clinical tests that support colour theory as it relates to psychology and emotional response. These differ according to culture and region. The colour red may conjure up particular emotions to Canadians, yet may elicit completely different responses from Austrians, Somalis or the Swedes (for example). Some common colour meaning right here in Canada are:

Red = Passion, Anger and Love. Red walls are often used in restaurants to evoke hunger.
Blue = Knowledge, Tranquility, Calm. Teal Walls in hospitals are meant to be calming.
Green = Fertility, Money, Healing, Success and Growth.

Colour psychology is a topic we could explore to no end. But its important to keep in mind: Of the handful of brand elements we’ve been discussing in this series, colour is arguable the most subjective. It may be helpful to those wondering how colour can best be applied to their budding brands, to know a few colour theory basics:

Using complementary colours is never a bad thing. Most traditional sports teams have applied this theory with great success. The Denver Broncos, New York Knicks, Islanders and Mets all use my favorite blue and orange combo. Complimentary colour usage and its popularity in sports may be due to the fact that most of us view players from a great distance, and these players are seldom standing still (OK, baseball’s a likely exception). Recognizing numbers and names under these conditions are important to the fans. Perhaps even more important to the game’s officials.

Using analogous colours in combination is also quite popular and effective in defining your brand. Especially as they tend to lean towards one colour temperature (warm, think reds and oranges – or cool, think blues and greens). Essentially analogous colour theory is represented by using colours that sit alongside each other on the colour wheel, usually in threes: Yellow –Yellow/Green – Green for example. In keeping with sports teams, MLB’s Oakland Athletics (A’s) have a pleasing yellow-green analogous colour scheme.

Single/Spot colours are quite often adopted by businesses. Identifying a single colour that best exemplifies your brand is a good strategy. Using that colour prolifically and consistently is an even better strategy, one that strengthens brand recall. Pantone is the industry standard for colour matching and cataloging. Most designers (print, web, fashion, you name it) will follow and align to the Pantone system. Pantone has multiple colour systems, covering a wide variety of markets and products. Some popular brand spot colours are:

Spot colours used by popular brands

These are but 3 colour strategies. A deeper study of colour theory will uncover many more colour matching techniques and groupings. When choosing the right colour(s) for your business, I would encourage you to do the research, and make an educated decision. The Chronicle Books Designer’s Guide to Color 1: Innovative Color Combinations (Amazon affiliate link) along with the other books in that series, were of great use to me – especially as a design student at U of Manitoba.


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Carson D. Samson

I do stuff. All kinds of stuff. And I really, really like Star Wars.