Brands need more than a single color to express a mood

A while ago I posted about colors – individual colors.

I wrote about the emotional and cultural characteristics of the major colors, and then I promised I’d discuss color combinations.

I forgot about doing that until I reviewed my blogs of last year to determine what subjects I might explore this year.

So here goes.

Few brands are monochromatic. And that’s a good thing.

Colors in combination provide a much wider range of expressions and moods.

By combining them in many different ways, basic colors can elicit new emotional responses. And then using different tones, tints and shades of various colors in combination provides almost infinite palettes to choose from.

But other than combining colors that look good together – esthetic choices – the reason for using a specific combination may be elusive.  In fact, esthetics is as far as many designers go in developing a palette.

That’s why I use a series of books, all originally created in and by Japanese publishers, to understand the emotional pull of different combinations. In this blog, I’ll just address Designer’s Guide to Color (volume one of five), and one page of its combination discussion and exhibition. On that page, eight different colors, including black and gray, were combined and presented to respondents in the Luscher color test.

Several significant responses were identified. The hues were “pure”, intense colors without tint or shade.

Brown with violet: evokes luxury and indulgence.
Blue and grey: means a serene environment.
Red and yellow: depicts volatile and outgoing.
Yellow with brown: insecurity is the main attribute.
Blue and brown: evokes security and peace.
Red and grey: brings to mind irritable, threatened feelings.
Violet with yellow: withdrawn and unimaginative.

Now some of these findings, mostly determined within the German culture, may be surprising because of what we know about the emotions evoked by the single colors in the studies. But it points out the need to be aware and careful of the combinations designers present to us. Just because the dictators of taste and style had OKed teal and sea green as the color combo of the year does not mean they’re right for your particular brand.

There are still several more posts about color combinations and corporate colors to follow.

Martin Jelsema

2 thoughts on “Brands need more than a single color to express a mood

  1. Ball hockey. The world is replete with monochormatic logos that work. Coke is the most successful, and monochromatic, brand going, while Pepsi-always the ‘also ran’ uses two, and sometimes more, to little effect. I agree that two colour is often a good way to go, but when companies argue over the need for branding to begin with, doing a two colour pantone logo only leads to problems down the road when it comes to printing and paying for the same.

    Like your blog, not sure on this post though… Take care,


  2. William: Yes, Coke is predominantly red. And many other logos are monochromatic. But I was addressing more than the color of the logo. I meant to include “trade dress”, packaging, even product color in this discussion. After all, few logos are viewed in isolation. And perceptions, along with the emotions they evoke, will be formed by the entire presentation. Martin

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