Every year a group of colour glitterati gathers in a secret location to determine the fate of the next season’s colour trends. Like the Illuminati, these colour specialists are shrouded in mystery, and only a chosen few have been given access to this process. Over numerous days of debate and ruthless sacrifices to the gods of colour (ok, we made up that part), this secret band of spectrum worshippers proudly exit the boardroom with THE list of ‘what’s hot in colour’… aka The Pantone View.

The Changing Tide Of Colour

All this mystery and kerfuffle over colour is actually a longstanding tradition dating back to the 1800’s when textile designers artfully selected the dyes-for-the-time. Trends were created by supply and demand and a dash of luck. When a freak weather storm caused hundreds of sea snails to wash-up on shore, the natural component for indigo dye, produced by snails, was suddenly plentiful. This colour rained down onto haute couture brands that cashed in big on the supply of dye. (Sidenote: Yes, we totally “milk” snails to create dyes and colours – even now.)

Trends today aren’t created by supply and demand; instead, innovation is king. When Valentino developed the brightest shade of indigo ever seen – blue suddenly became the ‘new black’ and an ocean of Indigo spread across the world. For three years it saturated the market until the last thing designers wanted to see was another blue suit. Haute couture lines like Valentino work with colour scientists to predict trends years before they happen, and develop dyes that have never been seen before.

In the infamous scene in The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep schools Anne Hathaway’s character on the importance of Cerulean.

“That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

How Colour Impacts Brand Identity

Okay, I know what you’re thinking… this is a lot of talk about milking snails and fashion. But what does this actually mean to me?

Your creative image is a major part of how a client or consumer judges your brand. The last thing you want to do is make a hasty decision like re-branding your logo to bright pink and yellow because they are popular (ahem, 2012 London Olympic Games logo). At best you have an expensive re-brand 6 days later (Gap, we see you), at worst your rebrand gives your audience epileptic seizures.

Top 3 Design Blunders

Here is our list of what we consider the top 3 design missteps. Enjoy!

2012 Olympic Games Branding

The London Olympic Games logo showcased neon colours and bizarrely shaped numbers that aren’t immediately apparent they represent the year 2012, and included a bright orange similar to Pantone’s colour of the year – tangerine. You know it’s bad when your ‘trendy’ brand is reminiscent of the 80’s and 90’s, but not in a good way.

Mind The Gap

Number two on our list has the honour of being one of the shortest rebrands in history. For only 6 days the Gap logo was a blue gradients floating square that enraged the Internet. Consumers reacted so fiercely and collectively that execs at the Gap even issued an apology. In this case, the ‘gap’ you are minding is a sinkhole the company threw $100 million down!

Bic Mistake

In 2012, Bic introduced the new branding ‘Miss Bic’ where they began releasing pink versions of their popular product. Confusing the popularity of pink products, which is widely recognized as a colour in support of breast cancer, Bic assumed it was merely a trend to cash in on. Instead, this launch confused and offended consumers.

Choosing The Right Colour For Your Brand

Colour trends are ripples in water. They pass through every industry, some quickly like fashion and some slower like interior design. Yes, hasty decisions are dangerous, but you also can’t choose a colour at a snail’s pace (see what we did there?). Decide if the ‘feel’ of the colour is a good fit with your brand, and ask yourself if you would have considered this colour before it got hot.

Colour can have a significant impact psychologically, affecting people’s moods and emotions, but it is also important to consider in application. Don’t choose a colour if it is difficult to read, or may not be suitable to print ads, signing or website pages.

When choosing colours during your branding (or re-branding) phase, consider:

  • Emotive significance
  • Colour association
  • Cultural context
  • Use in various marketing materials

New colours or ideas are exciting; they can re-energize an industry or they can fall flat on their tush. Be mindful of your client base and their needs. Even though certain colours may suddenly get hot, incorporate them judiciously into your marketing strategy.

If your current brand colours are tired, or if you’re starting from scratch and struggling with where to begin – remove the guess work and get in touch with our own ‘colour scientists’ to find the perfect colour match for you.