color theory 101: how to choose your brand colors

Welcome to the first "101" series post! Once a month, I'll be diving into a few, specific topics intended to help those of you new to branding. First up: COLOR! 

How to Choose Your Brand Colors - Color Theory 101

Whether you've been through the brand design process before, or you're taking a stab at designing your own brand, chances are color theory has come up a time or two. But what exactly is color theory? And how should it play out in your brand design? Well, friend, you're in luck because I'm about to break. it. down. for you in the simplest way I can. Warning: This post is a tad lengthy, but completely worth the read - I promise!

As you can imagine, I deeply believe in the power of visuals, and thus, color's ability to make a profound statement upon your audience. Colors carry inherent meanings we all consciously (and subconsciously!) interpret in very specific ways, largely due to cultural and societal associations. Before I dive into the nitty gritty of color specifics, I want to provide you with a bit more insight into how colors can work together for the betterment of your brand. 

When it comes to selecting a brand's colors, one of my primary goals as a designer is to merge my client's likes with scientific backing to produce a ubiquitous and harmonious palette. This so-called "color harmony" refers to the unique balance accomplished when you combine visually appealing colors with those that are also mentally stimulating. If I had to choose just one tip to share with those of you attempting to build your brand colors, I would encourage to think beyond just your personal preferences and consider how you want your target audience to feel upon first interacting with your brand. (Don't worry, the color chart I've listed below can help with the latter!)

So what's one to do if you personally LOVE the color purple, but your brand resonates best with green associations? That's where these come in! Below are a few theme "guidelines" for selecting harmonious, richly associated hues. 

Color Theory 101: How to Choose Your Brand Colors and Color Themes by Kindly by Kelsea

Monochromatic: These color palettes are made up of one color from the color wheel in various shades from dark to light.

Analogous: An Analogous palette is created using 2-3 colors next to each other on the color wheel.

Complimentary: Complimentary color palettes are often the toughest to master, as they can be quite vibrant at times. These are made up of colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. In simplest form, it has 2 colors.

Split Complimentary: Similar to the complimentary theme above, a Split Complimentary palette involves two colors on opposing sides of the wheel that aren't exact opposites. 

Triadic: The last of the color themes, Triadic color palettes involve various hues equally spaced around the wheel, thus making it the most diverse! 

While every design varies to a degree, I usually recommend selecting 6 colors total for your brand palette: 3 Primary Colors and 3 Secondary Colors (these typically play out in brand patterns, web graphics, and collateral). Among these colors, try to include 2 neutrals, if possible. 

And now for the fun stuff! As I mentioned earlier, colors are all internally associated with specific psychological reactions, many of which stem from cultural associations. For instance, have you ever noticed all of the restaurants that have red somewhere in their logos? From fast food to some of the nation's most prestigious chains, red is an extremely common color for restaurant and food establishments. Why? The color red is traditionally associated with hunger, therefore, we (as a society) have been unknowingly groomed to respond to the color red in a specific way. 

One thing to note: You may find that some of these associations resonate deeper than others for you, personally, but try not to disregard those that don't. As always, you are designing for your target audience, not yourself! 

Color Theory 101: How to Choose Your Brand Colors through Color Associations by Kindly by Kelsea

Now that you have the tools, it's time to bring it all together! Before diving straight into your palette, ask yourself these questions: 

1) What adjectives best describe my brand? What colors associate with these adjectives?

2) How do I want my audience to FEEL and RESPOND once seeing my brand? What colors evoke these feeling and actions? 

3) What colors do I personally love? Do these correlate to the colors listed above? 

4) What Color Theme will harmoniously tie these two things together: Scientific color associations and my personal preferences? Do these hues look aesthetically appealing together? 

And, above all else, don't settle! There are millions upon millions of color combinations in the world, so take your time when choosing the right ones for your brand! :)

There you have it, folks! Have questions? Let me know!