Oftentimes the first step to a brand refinement is diversifying colors and fonts—adding a secondary and tertiary color palette to the existing primary brand colors, and taking a good fresh look at typography to make sure that fonts are diverse enough to achieve a functional hierarchy. We’ll table fonts for the purpose of this article and focus on the importance of diversifying color.
Firms that have been around the block and are due for a refresh are often taken aback when we suggest adding to their colors, wondering “What’s wrong with our current two brand colors?” Here are a few reasons why broadening your firm’s color palette beyond 1-3 colors is an essential first step of a brand refresh or refinement.
1. Each color has a job
Having a diversified color palette allows you to designate certain colors for certain functions. For example, if your palette has a bright color, such as orange, yellow, or light green, this color is a prime attention-catcher that can be used sparingly to highlight important calls to action, buttons, and to call out important pieces of information with an accent color.
Mid-tone colors can be designated to different markets or services that your firm specializes in. Even if they are not formally assigned to these areas, having 3-4 colors in a similar tonal range can allow for breaking apart different sections in a PowerPoint presentation or in a proposal.
Having a few neutral colors is equally important to give the eye a rest and allow for contrast and hierarchy for supporting information. Neutral tones can also serve as good background colors, as alternatives to white.
Think of colors as functional organizational tools that go beyond visual appeal and aid in digestion of information.
2. It helps achieve hierarchy and break up block copy
Whether it’s a hiring brochure that details your firm’s benefits, a capabilities sheet, or a proposal, oftentimes you’ll have documents with a lot of block copy. More and more research says to break up large blocks of copy and avoid walls of text. One great way to do this is by color coding sections, using a dedicated font style and color for subheaders, captions, titles, descriptions, instructions, etc. Again, having a range of colors to choose from helps establish a system that gives the user what they need and aids in scanning information for what’s relevant to each user.
3. It helps with accessibility and compliance
Accessibility standards are becoming top of mind in many industries, as more and more industries are expected to have ADA compliant websites. A large focus of accessibility involves achieving a certain degree of color contrast throughout a website. Commonly used color combinations such as orange text on a white background or light green text on a white background do not have enough contrast to pass compliance. Having a palette rich in colors that span light to dark helps web designers make an attractive site that is still compliant, functional, and accessible.
4. It distinguishes your brand from competitors
With only two to three colors, chances are some of your competitors have the same brand colors as your firm, especially if your current palette only has one primary color (red and black, or blue and white, for example). As you start to add a few unique complementary secondaries, the likelihood of looking distinct increases.
Just the same, when building out a color palette, special attention should be paid to your top competitors to assure that your colors are sufficiently different and unique.
5. It adds a level of sophistication to your brand
A new level of sophistication should arise out of each brand refresh. When it comes to color, secondary colors should complement your primary colors in a way that achieves function without having them compete for attention for a seamless integration into your existing brand. Colors should complement your brand’s personality and culture, while adding a level of sophistication that elevates your brand to the next level.
A means of accomplishing firm goals
Brand refreshes, including color palettes, should all start from a strategic mindset of accomplishing brand goals. Your goals might be to grow. They might be to look like the firm that you have grown to be since the last refresh. They might be to create a whole new entity. The level of change to your current brand and color palette depends on the goals of your refresh and your attachment to the current brand. The new color palette might build on existing brand elements, or start from scratch. If you are tied to your primary colors and the brand equity that you have built, adding secondary colors while still keeping your primary colors as they are could be the best option. You’ll still get the above benefits without losing what you’ve worked so hard to build!