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The Importance of Color for Brand Identity

Currently, we get advertising from brands in many forms like television, billboards, or social media. The wide variety of electronic devices also makes it easier to access information sources online. But, from all the brands in the world, how can the viewer recognize that a specific ad belongs to a specific brand?  

Most brands that are easily recognized have invested in their visual identity, which is part of their brand book; it contains all the guidelines for their advertising content. These concepts are a vital part of a bigger concept called Branding.

As part of visual identity, there is a concept that is very important, although not more important than the others: color. It is a relevant visual element for brands.   

Normally, brands should use a corporate color palette that represents it and that is present in most of their advertising material. It is the responsibility of the designer to know the color and suggest a justifiable choice for a client’s branding process.  

To choose a palette, some people use color psychology, which consists of the idea that each color has the capacity to transmit a sensation or to be associated with a value. According to the book The Power of Color, “two thousand Germans from different cultural and professional backgrounds were asked about their favorite colors, those they hated, what feelings were associated to each color, and what colors they associated to different feelings. One hundred and sixty associations with feelings and emotions were established. The correlations indicated that happiness and cheerfulness were associated to the same colors as activity and energy; to fidelity, the same colors than trust were associated.” (Sandra Cuervo Diez, 2012). It makes sense that feelings and values are associated with colors, but this is also a socio-cultural issue since the meaning of colors can vary depending on the region or culture. For example, most Western cultures associate black with mourning, but in China, it is the color white. 

A tool to define the color palettes for brands is the chromatic circle, which defines harmonies of colors that can be used to define a brand. Some examples are complementary colors, triad colors, analogous colors, monochromatic colors, among others.

In the area of design, there is not one single formula for choosing a color for the visual identity of a brand, but there are justifications to prioritize and select a color. One of the external factors is the competition; if one of the objectives is to be different from the competition, then a good identifying element could be color. Maybe some brands that offer the same service use very similar colors and this makes it difficult to recognize them by color.  

There are some occasions where the brand might change their colors, and this change will be reflected in their logo: “There are different reasons for a brand to change their logo; for example, the right moment, to renew themselves or die, to renew themselves or bore others, or to renew themselves or to become entrenched, etc.” (Miquel Dalmau,2016). Colors can be changed during a rebranding process, where updating the color palette could be an option. 

Brands such as McDonald’s or Coke have used the same colors since their creation; maybe there is an adjustment in tone, but it is the norm to recognize these brands for using yellow and red, and red and white respectively. To prevent the ads from looking different in other countries, brands choose a Pantone.   

Other brands have opted for renewing their color palette in their visual identity, some recent cases are Animal Planet or Burger King.   

The success of the color chosen for a brand lies in the justification of the choice according to the changes wanted. The decision to change the colors of a brand does not happen every day, since colors define their identity, and losing brand identity will result in them not being recognized.   

At Brandy, designers are aware of the importance of color for brands, and so we always make the most responsible and functional recommendations to make our client’s brand look professional and for them to meet the desired objectives.  


Allan Fallas

Designer