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Navigating Color Psychology in Branding: A Valuable Guide on Strategies, Successes, and Challenges

Color is an immensely powerful tool in branding and graphic design, with its ability to evoke emotions and associations. In this article, we'll delve into the psychology of color selection, explore real-world examples of successful and unsuccessful color schemes, and provide a practical checklist to help you choose the right color palette based on color theory and branding principles.

The Psychology of Color

Colors can have a profound effect on human emotions and perceptions. They evoke feelings of happiness, excitement, calmness, or even urgency. For instance, let's consider 4 primary colors. The color RED often evokes a feeling of passion, excitement, action, and even danger. BLUE is often used to express trust, stability, and calmness. GREEN is a common color for brands who associate with nature and health, and YELLOW is almost universally used as a color that denotes happiness, energy, and warmth.

What are the colors used by your brand? Do the colors you've chosen fit with the image you want to convey?

Understanding these psychological associations is crucial when selecting colors for branding and graphic design to ensure alignment with your brand's values, message, and especially your target audience (your current and potential customers).

Let's dive into some real world examples of brands who got this color psychology thing right as ell as some brands who had to go back to the drawing board when their new mix of colors proved to be less than stellar.


Brands Who Chose the Right Colors:

  1. Airbnb: In 2014, Airbnb unveiled a new brand identity in collaboration with DesignStudio. Not only did their logo type change to the infamous "belo" symbol, they introduced an entirely new color called "rausch" (no, you rebels out there don't have to stick to the primary colors and color wheel).

Rausch is a muted peachy red that expresses a sense of adventure and friendlines and aligns with Airbnb's mission to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. This turned out to be an excellent choice and perfectly captures the feeling of hospitality and excitement that the Airbnb embodies. (Read more about The Role of Graphic Design in Building a Strong Brand Identity for Your Business here).

2. Starbucks: "If you don't drink coffee - do you even go here?", says every designer ever. But really, Starbucks' iconic green logo symbolizes freshness, and the natural origins of their coffee beans. Green also helps the brand convey a sense of environmental consciousness and a commitment to quality, which resonates with their target audience of coffee lovers who appreciate sustainability. Yet, one thing that is often overlooked with the coffee king is the subtle color and design evolution they have incorporated overtime their image as a global brand. The logo is now a universally recognizable symbol, which is something that many brands aspire to. But, what has remained the same about their presence? That infamous green. Let's grandfather Starbucks in as one of the greats in simple, straightforward design and a brand that stays consistent in their identity.

3. Tiffany & Co.: The Tiffany. The luxury brand that began in New York City in 1837 and grew to be a globally recognized name. That Tiffany & Co.. Yet, what is it we think of when we think of their brand. We think of the iconic Tiffany Blue, now synonymous with luxury and sophistication. A color that evokes feelings of elegance, exclusivity, and trust. Guess what? Tiffany Blue was chosen on purpose by the founding team who needed to stand out against their growing competition. Their strategy worked, Tiffany Blue and the brand is instantly recognizable all over the world and is associated with high-quality jewelry and premium customer experiences.

What occurs when color selections miss the mark? Both large and small brands may face significant repercussions as a result of such missteps. Let's delve into some of the most notable blunders in the world of color choices.


Brands That Stumbled in Selecting the Right Color Palette

  1. Windows 8: Microsoft's release of Windows 8 featured a daring, vibrant interface with striking, contrasting colors. Regrettably, this color scheme faced significant backlash, as users deemed it visually chaotic, disorienting, and challenging to navigate. The unfavorable response led to a major redesign in Windows 10, which incorporated more restrained colors and a user-friendly interface. This misstep was estimated to have cost the company a significant amount in terms of revenue and reputation, highlighting the importance of thoughtful color choices in branding and design.Pepsi's 2009 Logo Redesign: In 2009, Pepsi underwent a logo redesign that modified its iconic red, white, and blue color scheme. The updated logo featured a "smile" with a white wave on the blue circle background. However, the redesigned logo received mixed reviews, with some considering it a failed attempt to appear modern and fresh, and others claiming it lacked the timeless, classic appeal of the original design.

2. Gap's 2010 Logo Redesign: In October 2010, the American clothing retailer Gap decided to rebrand and introduced a new logo, which featured a small blue square with white Helvetica font. This design was a significant departure from the original logo, which consisted of the brand name "GAP" in a bold, white font placed inside a navy blue square.

The new logo and color scheme were met with immediate backlash from customers, who felt that the redesign didn't resonate with the brand's heritage and identity. Many people criticized the logo as being bland and generic. The negative reaction was so strong that Gap decided to revert to its original logo just six days after unveiling the new design. This incident serves as a cautionary tale for brands to carefully consider the impact of color and design changes on their customer base and brand identity.

The Ultimate Guide to Picking the Perfect Color Palette for Your Brand

Embarking on the journey to select the ideal colors for your brand can be a daunting task. Fear not, for we have compiled a comprehensive checklist and exercise to guide you through this process. This guide will help you understand your brand's personality, assess your target audience's preferences, and explore color theory to create a visually appealing and emotionally resonant color palette that resonates with your brand's identity and target audience. Follow this step-by-step approach to make well-informed color decisions, ensuring your brand's success and longevity. The good news is, it doesn't take long. grab a pen and a journal and let's get started.

  1. Refining Your Brand's Personality: Consider the values, emotions, and traits that should define your brand. Begin by listing three aspects for each category and comparing them with your existing brand identity. Assess whether they align seamlessly or if adjustments are necessary to better reflect your brand's true essence.

  2. Getting to Know Your Target Audience: Delve into the preferences and expectations of your target market to guarantee that your color selections connect with them effectively. A helpful strategy is to examine your competitors and other brands within your industry. Evaluate their approach and ask yourself if they inspire you. Identify the aspects they excel in and consider areas where improvements could be made.

  3. Harnessing Visual Tools for Color Inspiration: One valuable resource for identifying the right colors for your brand is using a mood board. A mood board allows you to collect and organize images, color schemes, and design elements that resonate with your brand's personality and target audience. By analyzing the mood board, you can identify patterns and draw inspiration for your own color choices.

Another useful tool is extracting colors from photographs relevant to your brand or industry. Websites like Adobe Color ( allow you to upload an image and automatically generate a color palette based on the dominant colors in the picture. This method can help you discover unique and visually appealing color combinations that you might not have considered otherwise.

By utilizing tools like mood boards and color extraction from photos, you can make informed decisions in selecting the perfect color palette for your brand.

4. Familiarize Yourself with Color Theory Basics: Delve into the fundamentals of color theory by understanding primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, along with color harmonies such as complementary, analogous, and triadic arrangements. This knowledge will enable you to develop visually captivating and significant color schemes for your brand.

A user-friendly, up-to-date resource for learning color theory basics is the Canva Color Wheel ( Canva allows you to explore different color harmonies and experiment with various color combinations. They also offer informative articles on color theory, explaining primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as color harmonies like complementary, analogous, and triadic schemes.

With its intuitive interface and educational resources, the Canva Color Wheel is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to better understand color theory and apply it to their branding and design projects.

5. Acknowledge Cultural Nuances: It's essential to remember that colors carry varying meanings and connotations across different cultures. When selecting your brand's color palette, be mindful of these cultural implications to ensure your choices resonate positively with your intended audience. For example, in Western cultures, the color white is associated with purity and weddings, while in some Eastern cultures, it symbolizes mourning and death. By taking cultural factors into account, you can create a more universally appealing and inclusive brand identity.

The Final Step:

After completing the essential five steps to determine the ideal colors for your brand, it's time to put your selections to the test. Gather feedback from your target audience to assess their reactions to your chosen color palette. This step ensures that your color choices truly resonate with your intended market, allowing you to make any necessary adjustments before finalizing your brand's visual identity.

Understanding the nuances of color selection can undoubtedly be complex. By following this checklist rooted in color theory and branding principles, businesses can make well-informed decisions that lead to a visually compelling and emotionally engaging brand.

We also recognize that delving into the world of color choices can be a daunting task. Allow us to assist you in crafting a dynamic, emotionally connected brand identity that distinguishes itself in today's competitive landscape.


Contact us for a complimentary 15-minute consultation to explore how we can elevate your brand and foster a meaningful, impactful connection with your target audience. By partnering with us, you can establish a brand that not only captivates attention but also leaves a memorable impression on your customers, paving the way for enduring success.


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