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Branding: A guide to colour

Colour Psychology

Bhavani Lee an Associate Creative Director at Vista Australia has shared her insights and expertise on the psychology behind colour selection that brands should consider when looking to enhance their ‘brand personality’.

What colours should small businesses incorporate into their branding to help them stand out from the crowd?

The best place to start is to look to on-trend colour palettes – look to the likes of Pantone to spark inspiration for colour ways and look to select colours that relate to your brand. My next piece of advice would be to pick your base colour and then look to contrasting colours on either ends of the colour wheel (complementary colours) to create visually interesting layouts and add an extra pop to any design. 

What are the most popular colours used in branding?

Blue continues to be a popular colour of choice amongst many brands as it instils a sense of trust, security, and confidence as well as sense of calmness. It is also a colour in various shades that can work well with almost all the colours on the colour wheel which makes it very versatile.

Other popular colours include:

  • Black - Black is often associated with strength, sophistication, tradition, and formality. Black can be a great choice for your retail or fashion business.
  • Red - Red is linked to love, danger, and excitement. Science also says that red stimulates the appetite — so it can be a great fit for eateries of all kinds.
  • Grey - In between black and white, grey represents balance and neutrality. Grey is a great colour choice for professionals, like lawyers, financial planners, and accountants, since it’s serious and has a corporate feel.

How many colours can a small business use before it becomes too much – would you recommend a colour combination when it comes to branding?

Start with three colours as your base colours, whether they are triadic, complementary, or analogous. These will often be used in your logo. Then look to add one or two neutral tones to round out your palette, usually an off-white and a darker neutral in grey or brown. Also consider 3-5 secondary colours that are complimentary to your primary colour palette. The main goal of these is to be able to create a combination with your primary colours that can easily adapt to the channels you are using such as social, email, website, or packaging.

What colours should small businesses avoid when it comes to branding?

There aren’t any set rules around what colours you should avoid for your brand. It all depends on the following:

Your brand’s personality, who are you and what do you stand for?

- fun and friendly

- serious

- trustworthy

- relaxed

- wild

What service your business provides

Some services have certain colours often associated with them such as gardening or landscaping (greens and browns) or yoga/pilates businesses (hues of blue and green).

Creative, craft and art spaces can be more experimental with their colour choices to reflect their brand personality, think purple or orange.

How you want your customers to feel when they engage with your brand.

The key is to balance these aspects with colours that make sense to what services your business is providing but also reflect your brand personality which ultimately supports what makes your business unique.

What’s your best piece of advice for a small business deciding on what colours should reflect their business?

Think about how strict you want to be with your colour palette and its guide for use, will be determined by how much you want the colour/s to play in your brands recognition. Think about Tiffany blue or McDonalds red and yellow, these colours are closely linked to their brand and identity.

Also, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries – is there a colour that all your competitors are currently using? How can you differentiate your brand from theirs? If all your competitors use the colour blue, explore alternative colours such as a forest green or a burnt orange.

For more information and inspiration, check out this article.


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