Lunatorium Designs

Rethinking “Professional” Color Schemes

When you look at business color schemes, especially for larger businesses in particular markets, you tend to see a lot more uniformity than creativity. This is understandable, because people have certain ideas in mind about how the world works, and how it should look.  Using well-worn color schemes can make your business easily-identifiable, enabling your customer base to make decisions quickly (and hopefully in your favor).  And using a similar color palette to another company or organization with which you want to identify (for instance red, white, and blue for “Bank of America”) helps in building customer rapport.

But it’s also good to recognize the importance of standing out from your competitors.  Sure you can – and should – do that through excellent service or a unique product, but that doesn’t help you when the first thing a prospective customer sees is your logo or packaging.  It is therefore important when considering the color scheme you want to use to identify yourself to also consider colors your competitors have not considered.  Do not let yourself be pigeonholed into a handful of set color schemes! When you get down to it, any color can be made professional if handled correctly.

When brainstorming color schemes for your business’s identity, first look around at the colors your competitors use, and make a note of the ones being used most; you want to throw these out of consideration.  These colors are used because they are “tried and true,” and in many cases, for their balance between ‘bold’ and ‘neutral.’  They’re neither boring nor garish.  But their overuse itself can make them boring, and not standing out visually from other businesses in your market defeats the purpose of marketing!

Here are two colors I’ve noticed are commonly overused, and often in tandem with each other: Reflex Blue and Red 186.

As you can see, it’s a common combination for several markets, which is even more reason to avoid it – these colors just don’t stand out anymore.  An easy way to tell if a color or color scheme you want to use for your branding is too common is to do a Google image search for “logos with ____.”  Here are search results I found for hunter green and kelly green, both very commonly-used colors (especially for t-shirts, it seems).

Now that you know how to figure out what colors to avoid, how do you go about picking colors to actually use? Although it’s probably not possible to use a 100% unique color that no one’s used before, it is entirely possible to use an unconventional color or color palette as a business, even as a very professional business.

The next thing you want to do, if you haven’t already, is make sure your target audience and/or market is defined and research what they want and need.  Then find a color that evokes the mood you want to evoke with them.  If you’ve already done this and ended up with one or more colors now on your ‘Absolutely Do Not Use’ list, you’re off to a great start.  You can easily find a similar but definitely different color.  Or you can pick something completely unexpected, and use complimenting colors to make it evoke that desirable mood.

lime green and monochrome grey palette
bright green and orange against achrome

For instance, what if you wanted to use, say, Hexachrome Green as the main color for your Eco-Solutions energy company with Pantone 358 (light green) as an accent color and black for text? This is a very common color scheme for green and eco-friendly companies.  Why not switch it up and use Pantone 802, fluorescent lime green, against a monochromatic grey palette? Or perhaps you could use green’s complimentary orange as an accent color and use it against an achromatic scheme.

As a general, but not hardfast, rule, the brighter the color, the more neutral the pairing for it.  In the first example, fluorescent lime green is paired against the ultimate neutral: grey.  In the second example, the green is a bit more subtle, so it’s enhanced with a slightly brighter complimentary color, and an achromatic scheme for a bolder statement.  No matter what you do, when deciding on a color scheme, you need to aim for balance.

Either way, make sure you aim for a fresh, creative color scheme to ensure your business stands out while avoiding any color that’s overly common, especially in your market.  This is the first step of your visual branding! It is important to put extra thought and research into your colors as much as into the graphics of your logo.  If you are unsure if your colors work for your business and stand out enough from your competitors, consult your designer before you make the final call.

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