Whether it’s the clothes we wear, or the shade of paint we pick for our living room, colour plays an important role in our lives. We are surrounded by different colours everywhere. Colours have different definitions and associations, and has the power to evoke different emotions that can influence our decisions. Colours can affect us in ways that we might not even be aware of. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to pick the right colours for their marketing collateral.
Colour definitions and associations
Colour is used to communicate a brand’s visual style and can be both emotional and practical. Different colours can affect how customers feel when they look at marketing collateral, while on a practical level it can help a business stand out from the competition.
Take the colour red for example, it symbolises danger, passion, energy, love and anger, all of which demand attention. Red is the international colour of the ‘stop’ road sign, which people easily recognise and understand worldwide, it’s also used in many flags as a sign of pride. Red is a power colour but can completely change the audience’s perception when paired with other colours.
Yellow symbolises happiness, optimism and creativity. It’s the brightest colour of the spectrum and most noticeable by the human eye. You’ll often to see combinations of red and yellow in the fast food industry, like the iconic McDonalds brand, as those colours are thought to boost appetites. When yellow is used as a singular colour, it often represents caution or danger.
Blue on the other hand, represents honesty, serenity and loyalty. It’s frequently used in healthcare or customer service organisations to assure customers that they’re in safe hands.
Using colour in marketing collateral
Graphic design uses visual emphasis as a way of directing an audience and communicating with them through or around a piece of design. By ordering the content through the use of visual hierarchy, the design is able to highlight certain key bits of information. This could be emphasised through the size, weight, colour or even the placement of particular elements.
Although colour can be used as a means of identification in graphs and charts, the use of colour also helps to adjust the mood, emotion and association of the design. If a colour is chosen out of personal preference, it could potentially give the wrong impression or detract from the message itself. By understanding both the subject and audience, the colour can be appropriately chosen.
Imagery also plays a key part when colour is applied in marketing collateral, for example, using black and white photography could appear over dramatic in comparison to the content provided. Colour imagery however, is more suitable when the design is created to tell a story, as it creates a relationship with the audience through the mood that the colour presents. This is where warm or cold colour palettes come into play.
A cold colour palette can represent loneliness or sadness, whereas a warm colour palette represents passion and happiness. However, when the two are combined or contrasted, it completely changes the perception.
Colour in magazines
JQ Life, a magazine we design and edit in house, is a great example of why colour is so important in printed marketing collateral. The magazine is designed around the four pillars of the Jewellery Quarter – Live, Learn, Work, and Visit. Those pillars are represented by four colours and the colours are used throughout the magazine.
As the cover is the main selling point of magazines, it’s important to use a colour which compliments the core feature image. By complimenting the photograph with the header and text devices, the photograph appears more vibrant and striking against the background colours.
When creating a spread that runs over multiple pages, certain colour elements (such as pull-out quotes or icons) are applied to remind the reader that it is all part of the same article.
RGB or CMYK?
As a designer, I often get asked about the difference between RGB or CMYK from clients. The appearance of colour is vastly different on printed items to how it is on a computer screen. As most documents are printed in colour, the colours need to be recreated by the inks in the printers. This is known as the four-colour process; CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black).
Computers source an artificial white light, meaning it only displays the primary colours that make up the white light; RGB (Red, Green and Blue). This displays the colours brighter than what they would be when printed.
Most printers will convert RGB to CMYK automatically, however, not all RGB colours can be reproduced in CMYK, and that’s when you get a slight shift of colour. The simple way to remember it is that RGB is for digital, and CMYK is for print. If you use the correct colour settings based on the output, you’re guaranteed to have a consistent colour, which is vital to your brand.
So the next time you’re coming up with an idea for a new brochure, magazine or infographic, carefully consider the colours you pick, think about what that colour represents, and who your audience is. Use colours that represent your brand or compliment it, and only ever use CMYK for print!
You might also be interested in reading our previous blog on “What is graphic design and why you should pay top dollar for it.”