Color is something that is of utmost importance in the world of graphic design. While there’s lots of debate on how a brands color palette can affect brand identity, whether the actual selection of brand colors evokes emotion through color psychology, or whether there is any real primal response to color at all, color palette truly does make or break a brand at the end of the day. Ever since the cave men figured out how to draw and use color, color has played a very important role in humanity’s expression between one another on a very general level.
Color can be used to organize things, highlight important things and even make ugly things beautiful, but what we are going to be focused on today is color’s function as identity in terms of brand colors. The reason color’s function as identity is such a highly discussed topic is multi faceted, and from a designer point of view it’s the ultimate use of color. Color combinations in the context of identity uses color in every utilitarian way possible. Does an identity use a limited palette? or does the brand use large gamut of colors? how does the color choice affect brand personality?
Once you depart from the step of defining a brand’s color scheme, primary colors and accent color, you move on to how the color is used within the brand identity. How many of the colors end up in the logo design, how do these colors interact with each other, how can we use these colors to add a puzzle piece to the totality of the brand personality while retaining utility?
Asking questions, trying things out, busting out the color wheel, and simply applying color theory are all steps we take towards better understanding a brand’s goal and constructing something that ends up in the appropriate emotional space are all steps brands take to use color. We’ll be analyzing a few brands and trying to make sense of how color is handled by each brand.
1. Slack: Design process
Slack is a cloud based team communication platform currently owned by salesforce. While theres lots going on with the software itself, we’re going to be focused on the color palette today. Just at a glance, its easy to see that there are multiple colors, the text is in white so all the color is in the mark itself. The interesting thing about the current slack logo & colors is how it came to be, if you look at the previous logo, there was an unintentionally high amount of color interaction, so much so that they really had to take a step back and look at the application of color due to the unintentional secondary and tertiary colors.
This is a really nice example of a company executing a really neat idea, but once they put it out into the wild they see an array of design issues with it. The important part about this transition in the slack design – it almost exclusively has to do with color. If you look into the dedicated page they have to this logo redesign on their website, you’ll find that they didn’t immediately give up on the original logo, they really tried to find various solutions. Ultimately, the slack logo was highly recognizable but it had problems with the color interactions that couldn’t be fully addressed with a generalized solution while keeping the logo the exact same.
Color schemes are really important to consider in the context of use out in the ‘wild’, for this very reason. Even if the 8 colors on the original logo and brand palette were intentional, putting the logo over any image with color besides white in it created even more color that was completely unintentional. Different shades, different hues all count as unique colors. In our experience, the furthest this can reasonably go is to consider a general gamut of a single color to be allowed in the context of buying ephemera from a vendor.
The shade of a color can be wrangled potentially, but as seen with slack’s old logo it can be quite a hassle. If a vendor product is in a distinct dark blue, and you have a navy blue in the brand color palette that is a different color code, you would usually tell the client in the brand book how to properly buy a vendor item with a color that is at least close to what is allowed by the brand standards.
The updated Slack Color palette has a lot going on for it, it contributes to the brand’s personality, the light blue and yellow, alongside the red and green allow for a lot of different ways to evoke emotion and implement the color to various designs but this does come with a built in lesson in color use regarding the previous iterations of the logo. This most recent iteration future proofs and bolsters the brand stand, ultimately providing great benefit to the brand and company as a whole.
2. Google: Primary Colors
A household name that almost everyone in the world know about, the gargantuan company that had the original idea of perusing the internet through one single website; google. As most people already know; google’s brand colors are the 3 primaries plus green, in other words the 3 brand colors that can be used to make every other color. The really cool thing about that is if you think of all the seasonal designs for the google landing page, all the special days dedicated to amazing people, all of that is ‘in brand’ because the brand colors allow for that.
This decision at google may or may not have been made with the idea in mind that this could happen, so happy accident or not it is a really cool extrapolation of what can be done with a primary color scheme.
Besides the great use of the brand colors in the logo itself, google actually has a great history of using the brand colors well in icons, allowing for a high degree of visibility; recognizing a google icon without even seeing the google logo. This use of brand colors
Google has taken their time with the development of their logo and brand color palette use, and it has paid off very well for them. The idea of using primary colors as a foundation for your logo can easily come off as kitsch, and maybe to some it was in the early iterations of the logo, but the most recent 2023 version of the google logo is a instantly recognizable mark thanks to its color palette that offers a wide range of emotion and expression with each color.
3. Coca-Cola: Simplicity maximized
Of the last 2 brands covered, this one is definitely both the simplest, and arguably more well known around the world. Coca-Cola is a brand that isn’t visually known for its variety of brand color, but for its simplicity and emotion evoking designs that they come up with using very limited color scheme. The thing most impressive about Coca-cola’s brand is how they are not restricted by their palette; they are freed by it. In the words of David Ogilvy; “give me the freedom of a tight brief” – a quote the really seem to live by.
While there is a considerable amount of color psychology that you can associate with the coke brand color scheme, we feel that ultimately they have build up a great history of creating unique products that still clearly coke off as coke product, which wouldnt have been as much of a hit without their signature red color. Brand palettes have strong range in how complicated they can be; but Coca-Cola really proves that a brand doesn’t need a wide range of brand colors to produce a palette that can be used creatively and ultimately result in a highly notorious and recognizable brand.
Coke has really proved time and time again that they find freedom in their limited palette, a brand with lots of tenure, notoriety and history has come this far hinging on one very recognizable color.
Conclusion: Analyze a Brands Color Palette
Brand color is really important for various reasons, whether its how well your logo does in various environments, how much your brand color set allows you to work up secondary designs, or if you want to push limited color palettes as far as they can possibly go. The important takeaway here is that when you produce a brand color palette, taylor it to your intent with the brand. The palette could be expansive or limited but it could reach the same end goal, ultimately as a designer you make the decision as to which path to take to your goal or destination for the brand. Learn more about analyzing brands color palettes