Category Archives: Graphic Standards

Packaging your brand: do you give it the attention it deserves?

One vital ingredient in the branding mix is packaging, particularly for consumer goods.

In today’s Brandchannel feature, Brandspeak, Ted Mininni writes a commentary called, Advertising Is Dead, Long Live Packaging. It’s a well-reasoned argument for more attention to packaging as an integral branding element, and worth reading.

Packaging is obviously important in consumer purchasing of foods, cosmetics and health products. I’ll bet every one of us have stood in the grocery or drug store isle looking for a particular brand, only to have to ask an employee to point it out for you.. It’s embarrassing, but it’s not my fault. It could be my choice is packaged like all the rest. Or my choice might be so popular that others think they can “steal” sales by copying the familiar package. Or my favorite might just be packaged poorly.

But other product categories, from auto parts to computer printers, can be differentiated through packaging. HP – Hewlett-Packard – does a pretty good job of identifying their products through the multi-color package designs. Their HP blue, logo treatment and placement, product illustration and type selection are consistent throughout their product line. But they’re the exception.

“Packaging” for personal and business service companies is expressed through signage, décor and arrangement. It’s best known in the service industries as “trade dress”.

It is just as vital an element to service providers as packaging is for consumer goods.

So, as you develop your brand, as you build your branding platform, be sure packaging is an integrated element, not just an afterthought.

Martin Jelsema

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

Bashing designers is not my hobby

I seem to bash graphic designers quite often in this blog.

I grouse about reverse type, or type laid over a non-contrasting background.

I dis designers who immediately want to incorporate the initials of a company name in their logo designs.

Then there are the designers who use nearly-illegible type faces just because it’s “trendy” in Wired or some underground art magazine. And those who want to impart the latest fad illustration technique even knowing the style will date the brand.

But I must say, most designers do not make the mistakes just described. They’re looking for unique ways to present a brand while maintaining the style the brand naturally requires, and not resorting to fad-like, the-latest-thing me-to-ism.

It’s just that some designers do get carried away. My advise: tell them what you require – design that will last a while and represent the true core of the brand. Most will “get-it”. A few will not. When you run into one of them, don’t be intimidated – fire them.

There are plenty of good designers who know the importance of brand and how to design for the long haul. Seek one out.

Martin Jelsema

Differentiating Your Brand By Design

Last week I wrote about corporate culture being a powerful branding differentiator. I mentioned IBM, one of my almamaters, in this context and also alluded to their alliance with Paul Rand in developing and policing the corporate brand.

That triggered my memory of an idea Tom Peters advocates in his book, Re-Imagine. He devotes a chapter and a lot of passion to DESIGN. He begins by speaking to product design but then expands his “rant” to cover design in all its aspects.

I agree with his passion and his all-encompassing approach to design. To me design is a definite differentiator of a brand, or at least it can be. Certainly the design of the Dyson vacuum cleaner is the thing that differentiates that brand and demands a premium price. And I’m not just addressing the exterior design and color, I’m writing about the inherent product design here.

When Jack Trout (with Steve Rivkin) wrote the book, Differentiate or Die, he (they) did not allude to design as a differentiator. They did identify “new” as a differentiator, but not design per se. Yet today design has become probably the single best and most appreciated differentiator fore consumers.

Look at two obvious examples: Target has embraced design as their major reason to be. People have come to associate Target with fine design at an affordable price. The furniture maker, Ikea, not only designs unique products, this Swedish company has also designed a unique shopping experience. I’ve not personally shopped an Ikea store, but I’ve heard that it is a unique activity that is memorable and stimulating.

Now in its broadest sense design can be interpreted much broader than product, logo, and store layout. As Mr. Peters declares, design is present in almost all functions of a company. It can be good or bad design, even unconscious design. It can be more than visual, too. Service companies design their offerings. A Wolfgang Puck’s recipe soup is designed. A DVD player’s manual is designed. The financing of a new plasma HD-TV is designed.

Tom Peters advocates that the chief designer within a company should have a seat at the director’s table, or at least participate at the chief executive level. The designer’s input is a strategic activity as much as a tactical one. She or he will help shape the design approach, establish standards, educate employees at all levels and functions, and police the environment to make sure the standards are met consistently.

I for one would like to hear about an insurance company putting a design advocate in a position to influence the various products as well as the way the company communicates, administers, sells and finances their brands.


Martin Jelsema

So what do I know that you want to know about branding?

That’s the question for today. I’ve been blogging about branding pretty consistantly for the past year at TheBrandingBlog. I’ve been showing off. I’ve been bashing some folks. I’ve even thrown a few cudos.

But I’m not sure I’m serving  readers as effectively as I could be. I’d like to grow the readership of this blog> I guess everyone that blogs has the same goal, but with all the years I’ve been around, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of knowledgeSo I’d like some feedback.

Here are five branding subjects. They’re numbered 1 thru 5.

Please review the list and then find the tiny “comments” link below the blog. After signing in, just give me your feedback. Either rank the five numbers representing the topics or list the first one or two you’d like me to address.

  • 1 – naming tips
  • 2- branding strategies
  • 3 – brand management issues
  • 4 – positioning
  • 5 – graphic brand representations

Of course, if there’s another topic you’d like addressed that’s not covered above, just write it down in your comment.

Helping me with this will help you and future readers get the most out of coming back for more.

Martin Jelsema