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Five Rules to Choosing Color
By: Sarah Jane Dunaway
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When it comes to logo design and brand identity, there are a few rules I tend to follow. In fact, they’re non-rules, as it often seems that clients are more concerned with the rules then the purpose — to create a logo identity system that represents their company. This list, by the way, also applies to everything from picking out shoes to picking out a new paint color for your living room.

1. Design In Black & White
I say this because otherwise you’ll get distracted by color. Your client or company will get distracted by color. Always start off designing in shades of gray and black and white so you can design or pick the most appropriate brand identity or logo for your company. I only design first in color when the client already knows their color palette.

2. Consider Your Audience
Who is your target audience? Are you a technology firm specializing in government contracts? Does your company staff include only engineers and web programmers? If so, then you’re probably guessing that you should just go with shades of blue. Well, you’re wrong. Don’t forget to consider your audience, but don’t underestimate them. Just because your company’s clients are engineers doesn’t mean they’ll hate the color orange or bright green. It’s OK to have some fun.

I would go ahead and rule out the color hot pink, which is often associated with teenage high school girls. Think about your target audience and rule out any colors that don’t apply — like hot pink — but don’t assume right away that the most obvious color is the answer.

3. Find The Purpose
What is the purpose of choosing a color? Are you rebranding your company’s identity and looking to create a new fresh look? What is the purpose of your company? What are you hoping to accomplish? If you need a fresh look because your company identity is stale, then maybe don’t pick a color that you’ve been overusing in the past.

Are you looking to streamline your identity because you’ve used more than five different logo and color variations? Believe me, it happens. My recommendation? Figure out the color you’ve used the most and try to incorporate it into a new palette. This will help refresh your palette while still maintaining some consistency.

4. Look At Your Industry
You’ll find that no where in my list do I ask about the competition. Companies often obsess over the competition, becoming too distracted by what the other guy is doing. I don’t care what the other guy’s logo looks like — I care what your logo looks like, and so should you. Do, however, consider your industry.

Just because you’re in technology doesn’t mean you should stick with blue or silver. It does mean that you should rule out any colors that would be inappropriate. Again, like hot pink — unless you find a way to incorporate it in such a way that is appropriate for your target audience and industry.

5. Use Your Instincts
When it comes to color, go with your instinctual feeling. If you love hot pink, then use it, but find a way that makes sense. If you really don’t like blue and you work as a technology firm — more power to you. Do something different like not using blue. Don’t be afraid — after all, it’s the best way to stand out amongst the crowd. Your instincts will help guide you. If you have bad instincts then find someone who doesn’t and go with their initial response.

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About the Author

Sarah Jane Dunaway is a brand strategist and design consultant, and the writer and creator behind the blog Clean & Proper. A former member of the paper and printing industry, Sarah Jane specializes in helping businesses of all sizes streamline marketing communications by creating compelling brand identity systems and corporate identity packages. Find her online here

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