Logos and Swatches (1)

Have you ever heard the song ‘Bold as Love’ by Jimi Hendrix? I’ve listened to John Mayer’s cover of that song a million times (I may be just a bit of a John Mayer fan, and a bit dramatic). But the point is everytime I talk about color theory I can’t help but sing that song. It so clearly represents color theory in the way it was written giving color personality and feelings.

“Anger, he smiles towering in shiny metallic purple armour

Queen Jealousy envy waits behind him,

her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground’

Those words paint such a clear picture and the descriptive words give color not only to the image, but emotions. I picture a goofy king smiling on his castle balcony with the angry queen lurking in the shadows behind him. The picture your imagination painted may be different than mine, but the point is you can picture the scene in the lyrics. The colors you choose in design do the same thing, even if it isn’t as obvious as the lyrics in ‘Bold as Love’.

Color theory is one of the first things design students study and learn about. My theory about them teaching color theory is 1) because there is no way to design without color and 2) color is one of the most important aspects to a design, especially with company branding. How boring would everything be without color?

As I mentioned in my previous post about creating a branding identity, it is important to choose colors that evoke the emotion you want your customers and employees to feel when viewing materials from your company.

Here is some insight into the emotions and feelings tied to common color choices.

It can be really difficult to decide what colors will work well together. To make it easier, choose a color you feel fits the emotions of your company and then choose one of these color harmonies to work with. Monochromatic color schemes use different tints, shades and tones of a singular color. These can look upscale and are good if you want simplicity in your designs.

Complementary Color Scheme

Complementary Color Scheme

Complementary colors are opposite of each other on the color wheel. You will get high contrast between these colors and they are great for attracting attention. However, they can sometimes be overwhelming. Avoid using a background and text of complementary colors. Unless you want your readers to get a headache, but you seem like a nice person so I’m sure you don’t want to do that. Stick with saturated colors in this scheme. Desaturated colors won’t appear as a complementary color scheme.

Analogous Color Scheme

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are the ones that are next to each other. They blend well and are great for colors like the example above, because they are similar to colors you’d find together naturally. Choose one or two of the colors to be more dominant in your color scheme and the other one to be an accent in your designs. This is successful when you are looking for elegance and a clean design.

Split Complementary Color Scheme

Split Complementary Color Scheme

Split complementary colors are adjacent to the complementary color. This is another way to choose colors that contrast each other but may be more visually appealing. This scheme is a good balance between the other two schemes I’ve already explained. These schemes are more successful when you use saturated colors, otherwise your design may look muddy.

Tetradic Color Scheme

Tetradic Color Scheme

Tetradic color schemes use two sets of complementary colors. Think of using a rectangle to find the two sets. You will be best served to choose one color to be dominant in your designs. Otherwise, your designs could be too busy and in turn be visually confusing.

Triadic Color Scheme

Triadic Color Scheme

The last color scheme I’ll explain is a triadic color scheme. These are found by imagining a triangle laid on a color wheel. This is another scheme that will draw a lot of attention, even when you use less saturated versions of the colors.

Okay now you’re ready for the color quiz, right? Just kidding, there is no quiz. Did I make you nervous? There’s tons of information about color theory and even though I wrote a lot there is SO MUCH MORE! But I do hope you feel more confident in choosing colors for your company.

Read more: How to Choose Colors for Your Brand Identity