The importance of colour theory

17/02/14
The importance of colour theory

Colours are not simply important, they are vital, and play a tremendous part in capturing people’s attention, their imagination and even evoking certain feelings. It’s important for us as designers to know about colours and their effects.

So tell me, what is colour theory?

In Colour Theory there are a couple of core concepts that you must understand before beginning to think about designing something; the concept behind the colour wheel and also the kind of feeling each colour represents.

The colour wheel is simple; it shows what colours contrast each other and what colours that are nearby will create a colour harmony. Colours which are not on the colour wheel such as Black, White, Brown, Ivory and Cream are known as neutral colours. These colours generally work well as a backdrop for other colours.

Colour theory is a broad subject, but at its most basic it can be understood as two colour groups that evoke particular feelings. There are warm and engaging colours, and also those that are cool and relaxing. The warm colours are Red, Yellow and Orange and the latter are Green, Purple and Blue.

It’s vital to know how colours interact with each other; if combined in certain ways they have different effects on each other, for instance a red dot on an orange background will appear small and limp whereas that same red dot on a green background will become embellished, bold, and more fierce. This is called colour contrast or colour compliments and it’s used frequently in pop art, however it is also often used in visual design.

The reason you want to be aware of colours and their properties is because of how it will affect your brand image. Debatably the biggest part of your brand image is the colours you choose for your brand because colours are usually the first thing a person notices, and unfortunately quite often are books judged by their covers. For example, why would anyone want to do business with someone who is in the baby accessories sector but uses an aggressive colour like red in their branding? Who would want to invest in a heavy metal band that uses baby blue while promoting? Ideally you will be using colour theory to create a special aesthetic that doesn’t confuse the message of the colours with the product you’re branding.

Of course you are open to using more than one colour and hue in your branding but having a coherent colour theme and continuity throughout your branding is essential. If you’re a business promoting children’s clothes or toys it may be a smart idea to use warm and exciting colours like yellow and orange, yellow being a very hyper active and bright colour that likes to have fun while orange is attention grabbing but not overbearing and aggressive like red.

The Home-Start Shepway Website is a good example of great use of colour theory in branding; the organisation is a charity which gives help, friendship, advice or support to parents during when their children are young, and features a happy and warm colour scheme.

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How can it be used?

Apple is a very good example of colour in branding done right. Apple products mostly feature a white and grey colour scheme. The apple logo itself is mostly grey and because of that it allows apple to have a very formal, professional and desirable looking brand. People who see it want to be a part of it because it presents itself as the provider for essential personal and professional equipment. The utilisation of white really helps to emphasise the professional colour scheme too.

In essence using colour theory in branding is about sending a message without saying anything. That is the general idea of what you should be trying to accomplish while designing your brand image. You want to let people know what kind of business you are and who your target demographic is, just by the colour design of your brand.

Painting Pixels can produce a full branding pack that will work well with your whole company image, fonts, styles, layout, logo, and colour range – assets that work in perfect sync with your logo, website, printed leaflets, business cards and more.