There are 12 basic hues out there, then you can turn them into every tint and shade you can imagine by combining them and adding various degrees of grey. But those 12 basic views have measurable impacts on people’s moods and feelings – an effect that works across cultures. How can you help people move through a process (or user journey) using colour to help them navigate?
Yellow:This is the most attention grabbing colour of all – that’s why it is used on warning signs on roads and toxic substances. It is also a warm and friendly colour. You can use this colour for events where people get together, such as conferences, client meetings and networking events. Famous brands that use yellow include: Snapchat, CAT and McDonalds.
Red:This is slightly less attention grabbing than yellow, though you will see it used a lot on registration buttons. Red also stands for personal passion. You can use this to draw attention to opinion articles on topics that you are passionate about or values you believe strongly in. Famous brands that use red include: Disney, Netflix and Coca-Cola.
Orange:This blends the action and attention of red and yellow, but also introduces playfulness and creativity. If you are marketing something creative, consider where orange might fit in. You can also use it as part of your internal comms campaigns for projects designed to activate the creative culture in your organisation. Famous orange brands include: Nickelodeon, Nike and Etsy
Secure and safe colours
Blue:Blue is a classic safety and security colour. You can use blue in pitches to show that you’re a safe pair of hands. You can also use blue in invoices combined with an action colour to encourage people to pay now. Many professional services firms use blue. Classic blue brands include: Deloitte, Clifford Chance, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Green:As you might guess, green makes people think of natural world. Brighter greens are more summery and playful while darker greens are more wintry and serious. See below in the open/innocent vs serious/experienced colours for more on this effect. Green logos you may recognise include: BP, Starbucks and Land Rover.
Turquoise: This blend of blue and green, can make people feel very calm and secure (much like you feel on a tropical island staring out at balmy waters). It’s a tint that makes people feel safe while also making them feel like it’s a very natural fit. A very famous turquoise brand is Deliveroo.
Change and transformation colours
Purple: Purple is associated with magic and transformation. It is also associated with royalty in the western world. It is a feminine but womanly colour, in contrast to pink with combines the passion of red with the innocence of white and is therefore mostly associated with little girls. Famous purple brands include Cadbury and Yahoo!
Open/innocent vs Serious/experienced colours
Black: This introduces seriousness into a context and dark, gravitas and luxury into a context. That’s why you might think of dark green or dark brown leather chairs in a luxurious setting. It’s also why darker colors work better in many professional contexts as they’re serious and sober.
White: Pale shades of colours and white itself introduces openness and innocence. It’s great for educational products or where you want your prospect to keep an open mind. It’s also why we associate pastel colours with innocent country maidens.
Grey: Introducing more grey makes an image or colour less “saturated”. It softens the effects of that colour and can work very well as a neutral highlight colour. I sometimes use it on spreadsheets to draw attention to certain columns without overwhelming the reader.
Combining your colours in a user journey
Use complementary colours to combine opposite ideas:Complimentary colours are artistically pleasing to the eye. They are the colours that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel:
- Purple/ Yellow
- Green/ Red
- Blue/ Orange
You might notice that these combinations all combine a secure and calm colour with an action attention colour. You will probably have a main brand colour and an accent colour in your brand identity that are complementary. You can use this to create branded documents that guide users independently by highlighting action areas.
Use a shift from white to black to represent an increase of knowledge: If you are selling professional services product or service, you are often guiding people who have little knowledge from a position of greater knowledge and you will often leave them with more knowledge when the job is done. You can use white to highlight the beginning of the processes, a place of innocence and learning, and black to show them what they will have achieved at the end of the process when they have knowledge.
OK, let's look at a hypothetical pitch document to sell a training service. Let’s assume that our brand uses orange and blue as it’s two brand colours. We're going to design the user experience of the document with graphic design and colour.
- Cover page: Standard brand template, stay on brand here – your pitches should survive the magazine cover test.
- Vision: Maybe lean on orange and white to create a creative open approach in your reader.
- Team: Maybe lean on black and orange to denote expertise and creative action.
- Product outline: Lean on white and blue to show that you’re a safe pair of hands, they are early in the process so in a position of innocence, and encourage them to keep the scepticism to a minimum for a time. But maybe sift into grey and black for the outcome of purchasing the product. You can also include a touch of orange when the action happens to highlight where they are taking action towards solving their problem.
- Outcome of product: Use black to demonstrate knowledge and expertise.
- Fees: White and blue to calm any nerves about prices and create an open mind.
- Photos: If you have a photo of a desk, behind your text about products, remember to make sure the desk is white and the items on the desk are mainly blue. And if the photo is behind your vision, make sure it emphasises white and orange.
- Process: You could build a process that your client has to work through from blue or grey in the foundation work, through to orange for the action part where you show up to give the training and end in black when you show what they will have gained from that training.
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