You might think that as graphic designers, one of the first elements of a branding project would be colour. But surprisingly that’s not (always) true! When we first start work on a brand, we steer well away from colour.

Colour is an undeniably powerful tool. It evokes emotions, conveys messages, and creates a distinct identity, especially for a brand. Colour enhances meaning and effectiveness of design, leaving a lasting impact on your audience.

Yet, colour is also incredibly subjective and can quickly polarise opinion. And that’s why we favour working in black and white when kicking off a project.
If, for example, we design a logo, we always start in black and white. As well as ensuring clients can focus on the design itself – the shape, form, typography and overarching concept – doing this allows us to enhance the adaptability, recognition and accessibility of the design across various contexts and audiences. And of course, if a logo works in black and white, we know it’s a strong concept that can be adapted to multiple colours.

Despite everything we’ve just said, colour is essential to our work – life would be dull if we could only work in black and white! Here’s a closer look at the impact of colour in graphic design:

Evoking emotion
The link between colours and emotions is something many of us are familiar with. For many of us in Europe, the US and the Western World red can symbolise excitement, danger, urgency and love, while blue denotes safety, trust and masculinity while projecting authority, loyalty and security. Who would have thought blue was so descriptive! Choose the right colours, and you’ll align your design with the emotions you want to evoke in your audience.

Brand Identity
Colours play a crucial role in building brand identity. Think about iconic brands like Coca-Cola and their use of red or Facebook’s trademark blue. Consistently using the same colours in the same way will help you reinforce brand recognition.

It can be tempting to use other colour combinations to suit new campaigns, however, we’d recommend against this. Take a look at our award-winning sustainability campaign we created for Univar Solutions. Keeping the campaign in the brand’s primary colour meant we could reinforce brand recognition as much as possible while still communicating a strong sustainability message.

Attention and Focus
Bright and contrasting colours are a powerful way to draw attention to specific elements in your design. This can be particularly useful for highlighting calls to action in marketing materials or websites.

However, relying on colour alone won’t create the best result, which is why we prefer to create initial designs in black and white. This allows us to focus on fundamental design principles in the first instance (balance, rhythm and repetition, emphasis, proportion and scale, and harmony). We would also consider other ways to show hierarchy and emphasis, such as the use of typography, font weights and font families. Typefaces can be particularly effective at conveying different meanings which may be lost if colour is used straightaway.

Only when the design is finalised, do we incorporate colour to selectively highlight certain elements and create emphasis. Taking this approach also ensures a more controlled and cohesive outcome.

Readability and Accessibility
Colour choices can have a big impact on the readability of text and the accessibility of your design. It’s essential to ensure that text is easily readable and that your design is accessible to individuals with visual impairments.

Remember that there are alternatives to using text which improve your design’s accessibility. It’s also important to consider colourblind-friendly tools such as using patterns and textures to create differentiation.

Cultural Significance
Many colours have diverse meanings across different cultures. The colour green is a great example. It is the colour of luck, nature and health in Western cultures, while in Indonesia and China, green is the colour of infidelity. Head over to South America and green is the colour of death while in other countries it has a strong association with Islam. In essence, what’s seen as positive in one country can have negative or even protected associations in another country making it crucial to consider your target audience and their cultural backgrounds when choosing colours for your brand.

When building your brand’s colour palette, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of your brand values and personality. You should be aiming for a palette that’s visually pleasing and reinforces the messages you portray.

Trends and Timelessness
Design trends often dictate colour choices. Yet while it’s important to stay current, it’s wise to balance fashionable colours with more timeless choices to ensure your design remains relevant over time. The trick is to use colour thoughtfully and in a way that aligns with your project’s goals and brand’s identity.

Creating timeless designs requires a balance between classic aesthetics and contemporary relevance. It’s about designing with a long-term perspective and focusing on enduring principles rather than chasing short-lived trends. It’s for this reason we chose black as the lead colour for Room 11. The other reason? It means our logo isn’t a distraction when presenting to our clients – we wanted our brand to live alongside others.

Colour Harmony
The way colours interact with each other is critical. Understanding colour harmonies, such as complementary or analogous colours, can help create visually pleasing and balanced designs. It’s also important to choose colours that are adaptable and can work seamlessly across all platforms.

At Room 11, we’re experts in the profound impact of colour in graphic design. Our team of designers are skilled at selecting the perfect colour palettes to convey your brand’s message and create stunning designs. Whether you want to refresh your brand’s identity or create eye-catching marketing materials, we’re here to help you harness the power of colour effectively.

Want to hear more about the way we work? Get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you.