The relationship between
branding and colour, and why we want to get them just right.
We’re going to delve into the world of psychology for a minute (don’t worry, we’re not going to ask you about your feelings—exactly). We’re talking about the psychology of colour and how it relates to your brand.
Colour inspires emotion; it can elicit feelings of comfort, sadness, anger, hunger, desire, and so much more. It shapes the way you think and often takes the place of traditional communication (think penalty cards, stop lights, etc.). Colour sometimes takes a backseat, but seriously guys, this a resource you don’t want to leave untapped. It’s something you want to get just right.
When you think about Starbucks, what pops into your head? If we were the betting types, we’d stake a pint of Bavarian Dark Lager from District Brewing that you didn’t think about the beans. You thought about the logo, didn’t you? That instantly recognizable green surrounding an abstract siren. The same goes for Coca-Cola, Tiffany’s, and even McDonalds.
They got their colours right, but let’s take it one step further: McDonald’s doesn’t just have yellow arches. No. They have golden arches. Coca-Cola doesn’t just have a red disc. That red, found on every single product in their line-up, is a unifying promise that each and every can will be delicious. Tiffany & Co—though often credited with the creation of “Tiffany Blue,” was not original. Back in the 19th century, wealthy brides favoured turquoise gemstones, and in order to cash in on this luxurious trend, Charles Lewis Tiffany chose this particular shade of blue to capture the attention of the rich and famous. If Victorian brides had preferred rubies, that little blue box would look very different today.
When you pick the right colour and pair it with a story, you get brand. Which is why getting your colours just right is so important to us. We want to help push your brand forward, but we can’t tell you the number of times we’ve encountered inconsistent colours. One of the most common problems we see is new designers forgetting to transition RGB colours to CMYK before printing. The result? Colours that turn out darker and murkier than expected, AKA not on brand.
If this has happened to you, if you’re in danger of this happening, or if you just don’t know the difference between RGB, CMYK, and PMS, read on. We’re about to make sure this brand-tastrophe never happens again. (Warning: things get a little bit technical.)
WHAT IS RGB?
RGB is an additive colour system used primarily in web design. It’s made up of three colours:
An additive colour system starts from black and adds colour, which is why screens run using RGB. Screens emit light using backlights so you can perceive colour and shapes. It’s worth noting that due to set-up, brightness, and screen quality, colours appear different on different screens. This makes it nearly impossible to match colours on the screen, so, please, please, PLEASE, don’t be one of those people holding a printed swatch up to your screen, calling us because it doesn’t match.
WHAT IS PMS (PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM)?
No two screens are the same, so designers use Pantone swatches to match and communicate colours. Pantone is a standard reference you can use to move online later (through RGB transfer), or you can adjust for print (through CMYK transfer). To get the closest colour match, it’s imperative you transfer to CMYK for printing. We use a seven colour printing system in our machines so we cannot recreate a Pantone colour exactly.
WHAT IS CMYK?
CMYK is a subtractive colour system used in print. It’s made up of four different colours:
A subtractive colour system means every colour is absorbed, but the one you perceive. So if you see the colour red, it’s because every colour but red is being absorbed by the page. The red colour is reflecting back to you. Paper absorbs light, so it starts as white. You then perceive the subtracted colour (in this case red) after the four colour printing process. Due to this difference, if you submit an RGB file, it will automatically convert to CMYK, and it’ll appear dull or murky.
Did we make it better or worse? At any rate, we hope that when we mention PMS, fewer people go running out of the room. What we want to leave you with is this: colour matters. It plays into the story your brand is telling, compels people to feel something about your product, and even subconsciously makes them purchase what you’re selling. People instinctively like things that are similar to themselves, so when you choose a colour, think about what stories you can tell to create association. And then consistently market that colour.
Want to learn more about how our printing press works? We’re willing to divulge some of our secrets.