Branding is one of the single most important factors in determining how your company is perceived by potential customers.  Not a big surprise to most.  It will define your business’s appearance, its personality, its demographic and even its values.   Perhaps more than any other factor, the colors you adopt are central to creating this first impression.  And still it seems that color is not always given the attention it warrants by some business owners.

It’s easy to overlook.  After all, what’s so complicated about color?  Does it really matter if your marketing materials are green instead of blue?  Yes.  In fact, even the specific shade of blue you choose can make a big difference.  We attach all kinds of emotional and symbolic meanings to colors, sometimes consciously but most often without even thinking about it.  Needless to say, it’s important to be aware of these overtones and use them to enhance your message.

The Basics

Let’s start simple, with some of your basic colors and the connotations they carry:


In a word, red is intense, the most overpowering of colors.  It is the hue of passion: anger, love, lust and guilt.  Red can also communicate speed and energy or signal danger.  In a nutshell, red, if used wisely, can make a big impact.


In contrast, blue, the color of the sky and ocean, is cool, calm and soothing.  Depending on the tone, blue can be very inviting and pleasant or very somber.  It is also a classic, enduring color, one that communicates history and tradition.


Bright and cheery, yellow can be very effective at creating a feeling of fun and happiness.  But yellow also has negative connotations to be aware of, including cowardice and decay.  Similar to red, yellow needs to be used with restraint as it is very powerful in small doses.


Green is most obviously the color of nature and growth, which has made it an exceptionally popular choice today amongst environmentally-minded companies.  But, like most colors, green also has its less positive meanings, including envy, illness and greed.


Deep and dark, black is extremely dramatic.  It is the color of night and darkness, giving it the potential to be very ominous and mysterious.  In contrast, black is also often associated with sophistication and elegance.

Mixing It Up

That is just scratching the surface.  The implications expand exponentially when we start to talk about combinations of colors, each with an array of possible shades, tints, hues and intensities.  For example:

Red Yellow

Red and yellow, when used in tandem, create a feeling of fun, excitement and positivity.  They are bright and playful, perfect for kids and families.

Red Yellow

Just by darkening both colors slightly and toning down the saturation of the yellow, we can completely change the feeling we create. Now we have a palette that is much more mature and more refined, perfectly suited for a golf course or a nice restaurant.

Blue Green

Take a look at this combination of blue and green.  These two colors make for a very cool, smooth, natural look, with the slightly limey green injecting a little bit of fun.

Black Green

Now we see what an effect black has.  Immediately it boosts the contrast, and, in effect, the intensity and energy of this color palette. Much more dramatic, and much more aggressive.

Green Brown

Here, a dark hunter green and a light brown combine to create a rustic, natural look. An obvious choice for a business with a connection to the outdoors.

But just by swapping the green for a light, airy blue, we completely change the look. No longer rough and rustic, now we have a palette that is still subdued, but much more modern and feminine.

When thinking about how you will brand your business, the important thing to remember is that it’s not necessarily about what you like. It’s about what makes sense and what will be effective and successful. Your branding should reflect who and what your company is, but it should also reflect your industry and appeal to the people you’re trying to reach. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but finding the right combination of colors can go a long way towards getting you there.

I’ll revisit this topic soon, with some real-world examples to discuss.

Matt Leahy
Director of Graphic Design