30 July 2018

A quick guide to colour psychology and branding



Colours impact our emotions and perceptions. These impacts need to be considered when choosing brand colours.

I'm designing a logo and visual identity for a client's newly acquired vehicle transport company, and in the midst of researching logos in the marketplace. As happens in many business categories, there are some dominant colours used – dark blue, dark grey and black, with splashes of red, orange and yellow. It makes sense that transport companies would use the darker, cooler colours to be perceived as serious, stable and reliable; and the brighter, vibrant colours to show they are energetic and confident.

Colour is the number one component of your brand that people remember. So you need to choose wisely, not only for a positive emotional response and to represent your brand personality, but to stand out in the clutter.

Colour meanings

By understanding the psychology and symbolism of colours you can harness the power of colour in your branding. Below is a summary of common colour meanings and associations for Western culture. In other cultures colour meaning can be very different, so if you’re an international brand you need to consider this.

Red 

Red is the colour of blood and fire. Red is assertive, daring, energetic and exciting. It symbolises action and confidence.

It is also associated with danger and anger.

Brown 

Brown is earthy, natural, organic and wholesome. It symbolises the outdoors, stability and tradition. Brown indicates being approachable and genuine.

Negatively it can be seen as dogmatic and dirty.

Green 

Green is the colour of nature and the environment. It is associated with freshness, healing, harmony, peace, stability and fertility. It also symbolises safety and ‘go’, as well as finance and wealth.

Negatively it is associated with envy, jealousy and guilt.

Yellow 

Yellow is the colour of sunshine. It communicates joy, happiness, optimism, hope, friendliness and energy. It can be associated with intellect, enlightenment and mental clarity, as well as safety.

Negatively it can be mean irresponsible, unstable and hazardous.

Orange 

Orange is fun, friendly and flamboyant. It is associated with warmth, energy, activity, youthfulness, creativity, courage, adventure, freedom and determination.

Orange is a colour people have strong 'love' or 'hate' opinions about.

Pink 

Pink is stereotypically associated with females. It represents compassion, and is playful and cute. It’s also a diverse colour, as bright and pale pinks evoke different emotions.

Bright pink is energetic (similar to red) as well as youthful, fun and exciting. Pale pink is sensual, light-hearted and positive. It is associated with love, romance, tenderness and sweetness.

Negative associations include weakness and immaturity.

Grey 

Grey can symbolise formality, sophistication, conservatism, security, reliability and intelligence. It can be perceived as long-lasting, classic and sleek.

It is also associated with being dull, dingy, gloomy and sad.

Blue 

Blue is versatile, and is the most universally favoured colour. It is the colour of the sky and sea and is often associated with depth, stability and tranquillity. It symbolises trust, loyalty, cleanliness, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, integrity and truth.

Not all blues are serene and sedate. Electric or brilliant blues are dynamic, dramatic and exhilarating.

Negative associations include sadness, depression (feeling ‘blue’), coldness and fear.

White 

White is associated with goodness, innocence, purity and cleanliness. It represents simplicity, perfection and freshness. It has a modern, minimalist quality.

Negatively it can be stark and sterile and associated with isolation and emptiness.

Black 

Black is bold, serious, dramatic, elegant and mysterious. It is associated with protection, formality, authority, luxury and sophistication.

It is also associated with death, mourning, fear and evil.

Purple 

Traditionally associated with royalty and nobility, purple still connotes luxury, dignity, ambition and grandeur. It also has a spiritual, mysterious quality and can represent peace, creativity and magic.

Darker shades of purple are more associated with extravagance and opulence while lighter lavender shades are feminine, sentimental and nostalgic.

The symbolism of mystery may be a negative, depending on your brand, along with its association with moodiness.

And my client? 

So what colour direction is my vehicle transport client headed? We're looking at using a bold colour – hot pink or bright aqua – combined with black to make it pop. Something that's eye-catching, different to key competitors, and that says 'dynamic'. We'll certainly be harnessing the full power of colour for this brand identity.

05 June 2018

All logos are not created equal


At the heart of a strong business brand is an identifiable logo. Developing a logo requires creativity, research, thought and considerable work. It’s not something that should be thrown together ad-hoc. You can get a cheap logo through websites such as Fiverr, and I recently saw an offer in a Facebook business group for a logo, business card design and 250 printed business cards for $299. But as with most things, you get what you pay for.

And what you should get is a customised logo that effectively represents and differentiates your unique business, and appeals to your customers – not leftover concepts from someone else’s brief, or a rip-off of another logo.

A design professional will take the time to understand what your business does, your vision, values and personality, and who your customers are. They will spend time discussing your design ideas and preferences (and they may not agree with them and they will tell you why!). They will research your business category, competitors and symbols. They will explore and test ideas and concepts, and present you with multiple logo concepts to work from.

I thought it would be helpful to take you through the logo design process so you can understand the value of engaging a professional graphic designer:

  • Brief: The designer will take a detailed brief about your business – vision, values, personality, products and services, and customers. They will want to know about any design ideas and preferences you may have, dislikes and so forth. They will draw out all the information they can to determine what attributes they will turn into a visual representation of your business. They will take lots of notes!
  • Research: The next step involves researching the marketplace, competitors, businesses with similar personalities in other categories, as well as relevant symbols and icons. This research will help ensure your brand is differentiated and unique.
  • Concept development: Alongside the research, ideas will be noted and sketched. There will be brainstorming, experimenting and then filtering and refinement of concepts until the strongest designs emerge.
  • Presentation: Once the initial concepts are developed the designer should present at least two, but ideally three distinctly different logo concepts (not just different colours or slightly varied logos – that’s later in the process).
  • Feedback: The designer will be interested in your initial feedback, along with your thoughts as you contemplate the designs over a few days.
  • Revision: Your feedback will be incorporated into revised designs and updated concepts will be presented. Then there’s more feedback and further revision of the concepts – this may loop through two or three times.
  • Development: Once you’ve decided on a concept, the final logos will be developed – perhaps in vertical and horizontal versions, to work as a single colour and in reverse; as well as versions for social media icons. Logos should be created in various colour formats (PMS, CMYK, RGB) and in various file formats (eps, png, jpeg).
    Many clients also engage their designer to develop the visual identity that will accompany the logo, including colour palette, typography, graphic style and imagery. This would be refined at this stage and designs developed for stationery and marketing collateral.
  • Delivery and support: You will receive your logos, and ideally a design style guide that outlines correct logo use and specifies colours, typefaces and more. A good designer will be able to help you roll out your new logo design, and be able to provide future services to build your visual brand identity.

As you can see, it’s quite a process! Although there are cheaper logo design options out there, they really don’t compare to the value you get from investing in an experienced graphic design professional. Remember, all logos are not created equal.

If you're looking to develop a new logo, or evolve an existing one and want to chat, please get in touch with me.

27 February 2018

Capital offence: the rules for using capital letters

Using capital letters correctly will improve the professionalism of your business writing.

Capital letters are often overused and used inconsistently. Other than looking unprofessional, incorrect capitalisation can decrease readability, which impacts communication and engagement. This overview will help you avoid committing any capital offences!

Always capitalise …

There are two fundamental rules about what to capitalise: 
  1. Sentences should always begin with a capital letter.
  2. Initial capitals should be used for proper nouns – the names of places, people and organisations.

Some examples

  • Buildings and public places, e.g. Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne Town Hall
  • Holidays and events, e.g. Labour Day, Small Business Festival Victoria
  • Organisation and business names, e.g. Moreland Energy Foundation, Gauge Espresso
  • Trademarks, brand and product names, e.g. Aeroplane Jelly, Beechworth Pale Ale
  • Titles, e.g. Ms, Dr, Minister
  • Legislation (also italicised), e.g. Copyright Act 1968
  • Journals, newspapers and magazines (also italicised), e.g. The Age, Journal of Marketing Communications

Rarely capitalise ... 

Articles, prepositions and conjuctions (such as ‘a’, ‘and’, 'in', 'of' ‘or’, 'the') are only capitalised at the beginning of sentences, headings or titles. For example, 'the' is capitalised in newspaper title The Australian, but 'of' is not capitalised in National Gallery of Victoria.

Exceptions

Sometimes the normal rules of capitalisation are broken for stylistic reasons. A brand or product name may not have an initial capital, such as the iconic iPhone. Or capitals may be abandoned altogether, as is the preference of singer k.d. lang.

You choose ...

Further to these rules, you have a choice of capitalisation style for things like headings and book titles. Traditionally maximal capitalisation was the norm. Modern, minimalist style means limited capitalisation is now common.

In my opinion, minimal capitalisation looks cleaner and is more readable. However, if you prefer maximal capitalisation, then use it! The key is to be consistent with the style you choose. Ensure your preferred capitalisation style is added to your business’s writing style guide.

Examples using minimal capitalisation

  • General titles and headings, e.g. What is content marketing?
  • Book titles, periodicals, articles, web documents (also italicised), e.g. The vanishing act of Esme Lennox, All marketers are liars
  • Song titles (also in quotation marks), e.g. ‘Dazed and confused’, ‘Boots of Spanish leather’
  • Movies, television and radio programs, podcasts, e.g. Upper middle bogan, The bridge on the River Kwai

Examples using maximal capitalisation

  • General titles and headings, e.g. What is Content Marketing?
  • Book titles, periodicals, articles, web documents (also italicised), e.g. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, All Marketers are Liars
  • Song titles (also in quotation marks), e.g. ‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’
  • Movies, television and radio programs, podcasts, e.g. Upper Middle Bogan, The Bridge on the River Kwai

FULLY CAPITALISED HEADINGS

When formatting documents with multiple heading hierarchies, I would suggest ALL CAPS be used sparingly. This style may be required to differentiate between hierarchies, but be aware that readability is compromised when lengthy headings are formatted using all capitals. For shorter headings this isn’t such an issue.

More ...

For more grammar tips, see my blog posts on writing time and using dashes correctly.

If you need someone to finesse your business writing or you want a writing style guide developed for your business, get in touch with me!