Category Archives: Branding for Referrals

Online color scheme tools for branding

As promised, here are several web sites with color tools of all sorts. If you’re going to select corporate brand colors, a spectrum of product line packages, or design a “web safe” Internet presence, these tools can be helpful.

But be warned: they can be so absorbing and fascinating that they tend to be time eaters. But if you’ve found just the right combination of compatible colors, it’ll be worth every minute.

Color Schemer Online – choose a color and receive a color scheme; lighten or darken the color scheme, and get the color hex codes.

HyperGurl Website Color Match – scroll down to the bottom half of the page to play with the color tool. ColorShades – lighter and darker Web color hexidecimal codes and swatches.

Color Scheme Maker Tool – create and view a mockup of your own color scheme.

Color Chart Based on Shades – see tints and shades of colors together to help you decide between them.

Color Scheme Generator – online color scheme generator based on the color wheel.HGB color wheel

Online Color Chart Picker – play with colors and get their hex codes.

Get the Color Palette from an Image – enter the URL of an image (size 25k or under) and get the image’s color palette.

Note: I picked up this list from the vast arsenal of tools for Internet authority site builders at I’m a paid member so I have access to all their resources. If you’re interested in exploring authority site creation using a blog format, click ASC.

Martin Jelsema

Three-color palettes sufficient to define a brand

Again, I’m posting about color combinations you might wish to use to help identify your brand. Colors, both in combination and alone, invoke emotional responses.

Once you have established what attributes your brand should convey, you can then, and only then, ask a graphics designer to develop a palette for your brand. As I’ve stated before, the palette not only colors your logo, it should be used within promotional literature, store fixtures, delivery trucks and other touch-point objects associated with the brand.

Today I am going back to the handy little book, Color Image Scale by Shigenobu Kobayashi, where his three-year research with the Nippon Color and Design Research Institute is presented. They had “matched 130 basic colors and over 1,000 color combinations to 180 key image words, allowing you the expression of any mood, lifestyle, or taste through the creative use of color combinations.”

Using the book’s index I looked up the term “vigorous” as a mood I might want to impart to my brand. Listed were three different color combinations which I’ll attempt to match the designated colors below.

Note: Color matching the printed cmyk 4-color ink process to hexadecimal screen color designations is tricky, so the examples may vary from those actually printed in the book. And they may look different on your monitor than they do on mine, even if I stay with “web-safe” colors.

But here goes: three combinations to help me express a vigorous brand image.

 Three examples of three-color combinations suggesting vigor

There are several web sites that provide color-matching models that can be used for developing brand palettes. Though not as authoritative as Color Image Scale, they can be helpful, particularly if your brand is web-based.

Next blog on color will list them for you.

Martin Jelsema

Brands deserve a palette of color

I blogged last week about two-color combinations for branding purposes.

But I was unclear about one thing: the logo need not be more than one-color.

I got a comment concerning the Coca-Cola logo being just one color, so I must be “full of it”. Well, I may be. But I was referring to a brand’s palette.

First of all, I recommend that for your logo  get a one-color version so it can be reproduced in a newspaper ad or on an “ad specialty” item. You may find in today’s world of digital printing and web-based brands that you can afford to use a multi-color logo quite often. But it’s good to have the flexibility to go black on white.

Now, what is a brand palette?

It’s a set of colors to be associated with the brand. It could be a palette of two, three or more colors depending upon application.

If it’s a product, it may be the dominant package color. If you differentiate members of a product family by package color, all those colors are part of the palette. Color is only one way to differentiate – you may opt for large type or a visual instead. But color can be effective in this context. You’ll want to co-ordinate the colors you use with the logo color as well. This may dictate a black-ink logo, or perhaps a reverse of white.

The color of the actual product may also be part of the brand palette, particularly when packaging is transparent or non-existent.

If you’re branding a clothing store, an airline or an amusement park, your palette is an important and integral component of your “trade dress”. Along with type selection for signs, counter design and placement, uniforms, and several business-specific elements, integrated colors for interiors, exteriors, equipment, fixtures, vehicles and uniforms comprise trade dress.

But if yours is a service business, you may want to pay attention to your brand’s palette. If you provide clients with recommendations, reports, proposals in a professional folder or binder, pay attention to the color. Even the colors selected for your office walls is part of your brand’s palette.

So there’s more to color consideration for your brand than the color of your logo.

Oh, one more thing: as far as a brand palette is concerned, consider white to be a color. The Coca-Cola red is always associated with white: it’s the consistent background that sets off the familiar red of the logo and the can.

Martin Jelsema

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

TheBrandingBlog Celebrates its First Anniversary

This year’s just flown by. And just about any time during that period, whenever I think I’ve got a minute for free thought, I’m reminded that I have another blog to write.

For me, blogging is work. I associate it with deadlines and excellence. My old copywriting mentor, Bill Aul at Marstellar, N.Y. circa 1965, used to remind me that short, crisp and compelling copy worked best no matter what I was writing. But, he added, short, crisp writing took more work that meandering, fuzzy writing did.


I know that for a fact.

I try to be useful in each blog, either sharing my experience, my sources of knowledge or my “common sense”.

The later can get me in trouble, and does in about one of four instances, I estimate.

This past year I started three different series of subjects. One, Naming Tips, has been on-going. I’ll be writing my 43rd tip the end of this week.

I did a series on how to “brand smart from the start”, describing the various steps I lead new clients through in the sequence I believe needs to be followed.

Then I did a series on color, describing eight different colors, their meaning and the emotional responses they evoke. This series is not complete. In the next several months I’ll pick up that theme again, elaborating on color combinations and such “technical” aspects as contrast, hues and tone.

Also in the next couple of months I’ll be discussing trade dress and signage, more about taglines, how to work with professional designers and strategists, and a few other topics.

If you’ve found this past year’s blogs useful, or at least informative, I’ve been rewarded for the time spent. But either way, please let me know what you’d like to see in these messages. Just click the “comments” link below.

I have an opinion about almost everthing :0)

Martin Jelsema

Brands and Color:number seven in a series

Still going around the color wheel, we’ve finally come to primary color, red.

This is a color of mixed messages and associations.

First, red is powerful and aggressive. It tends to dominate other colors in combinations. We all know it’s a warm color. And at its most intense, red is associated with hot. It invokes excitement and action.

Red is the color of blood and violence. But it’s also the color of romance and valentines. And Santa Claus wears a red suit. It’s the traditional color of fire engines, rescue efforts and traffic signs/signals meaning “stop”. In nature, healthful fruits and veggies are often red.

 Apple red

We speak positively of red-letter days and the red carpet treatment. Negative expressions include: seeing red, being in the red, red tape, a red flag and a red herring.

Red’s cultural meanings and associations vary worldwide but are generally positive. Brides in Hindu, Islamic and Chinese cultures usually wear red. In India, a red mark on the forehead purports to attract good luck. Red in Singapore symbolizes joy. It is associated with good fortune in China.

Because red is vibrant and powerful, a little dab might be all you need to convey a message of action and vitality.

Green is the complement color to red. Orange and purple are analogous to red. Names for different shades and hues of red include scarlet, crimson, maroon, burgundy, ruby, flame, vermillion.

If you are looking to associate your product/service/organization/event with a festive, forceful, hot, bold, and/or dynamic color, red would be first choice. Brands associated with sports, energy supply and youth often look to red.

Logos using red

Those people who prefer red are usually impulsive, athletic and sexy. They are optimists and passionate about their activities. They want to experience life to its fullest, even though they will have swings in their emotional natures.

Although red is a popular color for branding, there are some darker shades that are not used as often that will also impart the associations provided by bright reds.

Martin Jelsema


BRANDING & COLOR – Number six in a series

Back to blogging after a week of just “getting away”. This time I’m continuing the series about color in branding.

This blog’s subject: purple.

Or is it lavender?

Or perhaps violet?

Like the other primary and secondary colors – the purple family belongs to the secondary class – there are various shades and mixtures and intensities that can be included in any particular class. So I’ll discuss all itsdesignations under the class called purple.

Four shades of purple for branding

As a secondary color, purple and it’s mates reside between red and blue on the color wheel. Therefore, it is a little “schitzo” with attributes both hot and cool. Often, especially on the web, it’s difficult to differentiate a deep purple from a dark blue, or a violet from a wine-red hue.

Purple is traditionally associated with nobility, spirituality and magic. There’s also a suggestion of prosperity.

In researching for this blog, I was surprised that fewer companies had adopted purple as a primary corporate color. There are few negative connotations. Just purple prose and purple haze show up. But there is an association with death in Latin America.

The only brand I’ve discovered that actually revels in purple is the “purple pill”, Nexium.

 Purple logos for Starter, Nexium, Diners Club, Hobie, Fiat and Sun Microsystems.

Another user of purple is FedEx and I’ll comment more about that. Initially the FedEx colors were purple and orange. Today that combination refers to its overnight air express service. For their corporate colors they’re substituted gray for orange. Then for their ground service, it’s lime green and purple, for “Trade Network” it’s gold and purple, and for the FedEx/Kinko stores, purple and sky blue. As you can see below, the “Fed” word is always purple and the logo retains its typeface in each variation. Well done, FedEx.

An array of FedEx logos

As already stated, purple imparts dignity or nobility in its darker tones. When more toward lavender, the color is feminine and fashion oriented.

Across the wheel from purple is the primary color, yellow. As it’s complement, they make a contrasting and complementary pair. The analogous colors are red and blue.

Those people who favor purple are likely to be creatives or eccentrics. They enjoy being unique from others and can be temperamental. They are also sensitive and observant, and enjoy fantasy. I’ve read that comic books with purple on their covers sell better than those with another color dominating.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a color for your brand that hasn’t been already used to adnauseam, you might explore purple and its associates, violet, mauve, lavender, lilac, orchid, plum, et al.

Martin Jelsema

Branding and Color– Number 5 in a Series

This week, the subject is blue. Blue has a lot going for it.

It’s a primary color with all kinds of tones and hues.

They range from an almost-black navy to the lightest of pastels, from bright sky-blue to dignified royal blue, from greenish turquoise to purplish ultramarine.

 blue sky

Basically, blue is a cool color. That means it’s complementary to the hot secondary color, orange. Analogous colors are green and purple.

Blue is the most-liked color. It has a universality of good associations beginning with sky and water. Yet, it is not a color associated with food, with the exception of blueberries. Blue has a masculine orientation as well.

Large companies seem partial to blue as a company color – IBM, AT&T, GE and GM among them. And of course there’s the Tiffany blue box.

array of blues in branding 

In general, blue imparts “good vibes”. It has come to represent importance, intelligence, stability, harmony, peace, confidence, masculinity, power, trust and serenity.

The word “blue” turns up in phrases that are generally positive: true blue, blue ribbon, blue skies, blue book.

Blue can also be associated with sadness and depression. Feeling blue and singing the blues come to mind.

In its lighter, brighter tones, blue imparts a freshness and a casualness. Blue-gray is a modern, formal color. The dark blues can conger formal and classic associations.

People whose favorite color is blue generally have a need for calm. They are usually gentle and sensitive and tend to form strong attachments and relationships. They display a high sense of responsibility, trust and confidence.

Medium and dark blues can be combined with warm and hot colors for contrast and tension. When dark blues are matched to dark colors like maroon, black and gold, a somber, dignified association is created. Lighter tones combined with earth tones like tan imparts a nature-oriented association. Mid-toned blues are mutually compatible with contrasting and monochromatic colors, and offers great flexibility.

No wonder it’s the most popular color.

Martin Jelsema