1 Principle And 3 Methods For Choosing Great Brand Colours

Leverage the subconscious impression of colour for your brand

The first principal

Colour is a powerful tool for quick communication, evident by its use on warning and road signs. But what should be considered when choosing a colour? What concept should you have in mind? What is at the core of the decision?

Branding Colour = Impression

It’s all based on impression because we recognise and interpret colours subconsciously. That impression is interpreted differently across cultures, for example red is a colour of love and anger in the west, but it represents prosperity and good luck in China. When it comes to branding, you must consider a few key aspects of colours: In your target market, what are the meanings of different colours? What are the associations with colours? And what colours are used by your competitors?

Methods of branding colour

There are three simple approaches to deciding the colour of your brand. Both require an understanding of three core principles:

  1. Psychology: What are you representing? You need to know the values and attributes associated with colours in the context of your audience’s cultures.
  2. Association: What are you relating to? You need to understand the existing associations with colour combinations based on usage in relevant cultures.
  3. Differentiation: What makes you different? You need to know the primary colours of your competitors and the personas associated with these colour

Method one

The first approach you should consider when choosing your brand’s colour is differentiation. You need to decide if you should or can stand out. Distinguishing by colour is the fastest way to draw someone’s eye to your brand… but if the reason for choosing the colour doesn’t align with your brand’s strategy, you’ll only be confusing customers. Check if you can stand out by comparing your brand’s values with the primary colours not used (or rarely used) by your competitors. If your brand aligns with one of those colours, you have a great opportunity to stand out.

Making bold use of these colours in touchpoints will serve as free advertising. A great example of this is Monzo going with a bright coral card and blue gradient for a premium card. If you live in the UK, you’ve almost undoubtedly noticed one of these and wondered about who makes it.

Method two

The second approach is going with the established approach, choosing a colour associated with your industry. Going with a colour that is already associated with your products/services will help customers relate your brand to your industry. A simple method of doing this is to look at your direct competitors’ most popular three colours and see which best suits your brands’ values. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t account for differentiation; you still need to stand out and can do this by putting a unique twist on that colour. You can do this by adapting method one to choose a variation that reflects what is unique about your brand’s strategy.

Colour palettes

You need to pick a palette that compliments it to exaggerate or diversifies it along with your primary colour. When choosing your brand’s remaining colours, you need to consider their relationship with the primary colour. Do you want to make your primary colour stand out? Do you want to create sub-brands within the parent brand? Do you want to create a combination that differentiates you from your competitors? Whatever the reason, an understanding of colour theory and ratios is essential to creating a palette that pairs together meaningfully and aesthetically. You can quickly find information about colour theory by searching the term on Google or YouTube, and for more information on the principles of colour and other essential design elements of a brand check out my article on contrast.

The 1 Principle You Need To Know For Design



Choosing a brand’s colours requires an understanding of the psychological impressions that colours have on your target audience(s), and the associations that arise when pairing multiple colours. Using that knowledge you can choose colours that support your brand and with research on competitors know the options to differentiate yourself at a glance.

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