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KulizaColours are crucial for brands, especially because of thevisual impact they can create in terms of establishingvalue...
13Social Technology Quarterly 06
Kulizausing two models – the additive model andthe subtractive model. The additive model ofcolour mixing is based on the b...
Social Technology Quarterly 06The Psychological Impact ofColoursDifferent colours have different emotionalimpacts associat...
KulizaRedTurquoiseNature & FreshnessCurrency & ProsperityFriendliness & HappinessEnergy & DynamismGreenSpring GreenYellowO...
Social Technology Quarterly 06CyanOceanStability & IntelligenceCalmness & PeacePassion & DramaIncreases MetabolismBlueViol...
KulizaUse of colours across differentsectorsDifferent business sectors show particularpreferences towards certain colours:...
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The impact of colours on brand identity


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This article, by Anindya Kundu, was published in STQ 06. Colours are crucial for brands, especially because of the visual impact they can create in terms of establishing
values and ideas a brand would want to project. With their aesthetic properties and psychological impact colours can turn around a brand’s identity.

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The impact of colours on brand identity

  1. 1. KulizaColours are crucial for brands, especially because of thevisual impact they can create in terms of establishingvalues and ideas a brand would want to project.Withtheir aesthetic properties and psychological impactcolours can turn around a brand’s Anindya KunduIllustration Credit: Anindya KunduThe roots of the word ‘brand’ can be tracedback to the old Norse word ‘brandr’ whichdenotes the ancient use of hot iron to markcattle of one farm from another. The word‘maverick’, which originally meant unbrandedcattle has its origins in the story of a Texasrancher, Samuel Augustus Maverick,whose neglected cattle were rounded up byneighbouring ranchers.Branding also found its expression inmarkings on bricks, watermarks on paper,and signs on barrels to distinguish products.Even the signatures of master artists suchas Leonardo da Vinci’s on paintings can beconsidered as a form of branding. Much after,branding was done with the use of logos onprinted posters and product packaging. Withthe advent of radio and television slogans,jingles, and mascots started appearing withbrand advertisements.Today, a brand is a voice that gives aunique identity to an organization or entity,distinguishingitfromothers.Itoftencomprisesthe name, corresponding typography,shapes, symbol, logo or any other designelements including the colours used by theorganization. Great branding is effective indriving loyalty, bring to limelight the productsor services offered by a company and boostsales or transactions in unparalleled ways.Colour is a prime visual element peopleperceive. Hence it plays a crucial role in anydesign. It is extremely important in brandingbecause not only does it add aesthetic valuein terms of art but also because differentcolours have different psychological impactson viewers. Thus the choice of colours inbrand identity requires to be made accordingto the vision of the company and the impact itwants to create on its specific audience.A Glimpse into Colour TheoryColours can be fundamentally describedImpact of Colourson Brand IdentityCampaigns
  2. 2. 13Social Technology Quarterly 06
  3. 3. Kulizausing two models – the additive model andthe subtractive model. The additive model ofcolour mixing is based on the behaviour oflight mixes. Here red, green, and blue lightcombine to produce white light. The behaviourof mixing of colour pigments like any dye,paint or ink give rise to the subtractive model.In this case, any colour can be generated bymixing the colours cyan, magenta, yellow,and black, and is the foundation of colourprinting and photography. Colours can alsobe defined using the three attributes of hue,saturation and lightness.Based on the traditional “Colour Wheel”that dates back to Goethe’s Theory ofColours published in 1810, red, yellow, andblue are the primary colours. By mixing theprimary colours, secondary colours such asorange, green, and purple are produced.Consequently, by mixing a primary colourwith its adjacent secondary colour the tertiarycolours - vermilion, marigold, chartreuse,aquamarine, violet, and magenta - arederived. Colours can also be divided basedon their relative ‘temperature’, based on bothnature and cultural norms. Warm coloursinclude red to yellow including orange, pink,brown, and burgundy. Cool colours includegreen to blue including shades of violet. Coolcolours have a calming effect and appear torecede, while warm colours represent heatand motion, pop-out and create emphasis.Hence cool colours are often used forbackgrounds and warm colours for makingheadings or graphics to stand out.While choosing a colour scheme or acombination of colours that work together,relative positions of colours in the colourwheel offer an advantage. Thus someof the basic colour schemes which existare: monochromatic (tones of a singlecolour), analogous (colours closely related),complementary (colours opposite to oneanother), split complementary (whencomplementary colours are split to twoclose and equidistant colours), triadic (threecolours equally separated in wheel), and thetetradic (also called double complementary).The Functional Impact ofColoursThe functional aspect of colours is to createemphasis or prominence, which is a primarygoal of branding. Thus along with using theother principles of placement, continuity,isolation and proportion, contrast betweencolours is the factor determining readabilityand attention of the viewers. Black onwhite is the easiest to read on both paperand computer screens. Other most legiblecombinations include black on yellow,green on white followed by red on white.As mentioned earlier, warm colours tend topop-out more compared to cooler colours,which appear to recede. This can be usedeffectively to emphasize branding.
  4. 4. Social Technology Quarterly 06The Psychological Impact ofColoursDifferent colours have different emotionalimpacts associated with specific moods.Red is the colour for passion. It is knownto increase human metabolism and has anexciting, dramatic effect. Even the richercolours- burgundy and maroon find their appealamongst wine and fine living enthusiasts.Orange is an active and energetic colour. Itpromotes enthusiasm and creativity. It has aless formal and more inviting appeal to it. Itworks well for anything related to food andcooking. Being hard to find in nature theyit also stands out and hence used in life-jackets, road cones and hunting vests.Yellow is a highly active colour and fostershappiness. Hence it is the colour of smileyicons and is commonly used to evokefriendliness.Green is the colour for nature and freshness.It is also associated with currency and hencewealth and prosperity.Blue is the colour of tranquillity, peace andstability. It symbolizes openness, intelligenceand faith. The negative connotationassociated with it is melancholy as expressedin blues music.Purple has both the stimulation of red and thecalmness of blue. It is the colour of royaltyand extravagance. This association stemmedfrom the difficulty in preparing purple dye inancient times. It is also commonly seen ingemstones, flowers, and wine.White is the colour associated with purity andperfection. In some Asian cultures it is thesignifier of death.In spite of all its negative connotations withdarkness, evil and death, Black is also thecolour of elegance, power and strength ifused appropriately in certain contexts.Colours and Aesthetic valueThe aesthetic values of colours are derivedfrom the choice of colours according to thecontext it has been used in as well as fromthe harmony in the colour palette. Thisharmony can be obtained from the use ofthe basic colour schemes – monochromatic,analogous, complementary, splitcomplimentary, triadic, and tetradic. AdobeKuler is a great resource for finding andcreating sophisticated colour themes basedon these basic colour schemes.
  5. 5. KulizaRedTurquoiseNature & FreshnessCurrency & ProsperityFriendliness & HappinessEnergy & DynamismGreenSpring GreenYellowOrange
  6. 6. Social Technology Quarterly 06CyanOceanStability & IntelligenceCalmness & PeacePassion & DramaIncreases MetabolismBlueVioletMagentaRaspberry
  7. 7. KulizaUse of colours across differentsectorsDifferent business sectors show particularpreferences towards certain colours:Food and Beverage IndustryIt has an affinity towards the colours red,yellow, and orange. This is apparent in thebranding of Coca Cola, McDonalds, KFC,Taco Bell, Café Coffee Day and almostany other fast food chain. Red stimulatesappetite, while yellow and orange impartfriendliness. Green is also used as in Subwaybranding to indicate freshness and nature.Pepsi and Dominos introduce a relativelyuncommon blue, but it again has red to offsetand contrast it.Automobile IndustryAutomobiles look for a classy appeal andusually use black and chrome textures.Prominent examples include Nissan, Honda,Jaguar, and Mercury. Red is also usedsometimes to evoke passion as we cannotice in Toyota, Audi, Suzuki, Fiat, and manyothers. Reliability and stability are evokedby BMW, Ford, Mazda, Volvo and Saab.Even the sporty yellow and orange find theirexpressions with Ferrari, Renault, Opel, andChevrolet.IT IndustryComputers and IT services companies havea preference towards blue as it gives thesense of clarity and stability. DELL, HP, IBM,Intel, Microsoft, Facebook, and eBay haveblue as the foundation to their branding. Incase of electronics both red and blue findprominence. Samsung, Phillips, Sony, andPanasonic use blue while others like LG,Canon, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Bosh are basedon variations of red.Telecommunications SectorOrganizations in the mobile andcommunications sector have similar colourpreferences in order to represent energy,dynamism, reliability, and friendliness. Hencecolours such as red, blue, yellow, and orangeare common. For example, the blue brandingof Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson, the red ofVodafone and Virgin, and orange used byOrange are examples that stand for theseattributes.Retail SectorThis sector too uses a lot of red to captureenergy, yellow and shades of orange forfriendliness, and a splash of blue and greento denote freshness.ToysSince children are attracted by primarycolours, logos of toy companies often usebright primary colours. Children tend to preferprimary colours and hence clothes and toystypically have primary colours.Fashion IndustryThe colours associated with luxury areblack and richer shades of red like brown,burgundy, maroon, and forest green. Hencemost designer labels use either black orthese colours to make their statement totheir niche audience. This is also the casewith most wine, liqueur, and other premiumproducts.Colours have a deep impact on thebranding of a product or service due to itspsychological, functional, and aestheticproperties. Although there are no fixed rulesfor choosing colours for a specific brand,certain trends and patterns according tothe industry and audience profiles can bemapped. While there are certain norms andrules based on colour theory, exceptions alsoexist and have alternative appeals to standout of the crowd.