Some might say that color is subjective – make it blue or green, makes no matter. Or if it's a dark blue or a light blue, as long as it's blue, it should be fine. Well, I'm here to tell you that colors do in fact matter, at least where branding is concerned.
For most people, when they think of color, it comes up when they're working on their house. Maybe you moved into a new home and want to paint the walls. You know how that story goes...you go into your local hardware or paint store and it begins:
- What color are you looking for?
- What finish would you like - high gloss, satin, matte?
- Are you painting over another color?
- Are you planning to prime it first?
- What part of the house are you painting - a kitchen or a bedroom - as some walls may need to be cleaned more regularly?
Then the frustration sets in, especially if your the guy or gal sent to the store with a list and no real project background (or interest) in the project. Add to that the fact that in different lights and time of day, the color will look completely different, which might mean yet another trip back to the paint store for another gallon of paint.
Case in point, how many partially used paint cans do you have in your garage or shed?
The nice thing about a room in your house, is that you can paint over it if you don't like it, and you aren't going to mistake the kitchen for the bedroom just because of the paint color. So in this case color is important, but perhaps subjective — it's based more on taste, style and personal design choices (some of you likely have better taste than others, but that's not really the point here).
The point is, that when it comes to your brand identity — your name, logo and tagline — colors matter.
If you don't believe me, ask the Chief Marketing Officer at DeWalt or Milwaukee. I bet they know exactly what color formula makes up their yellow or their red. And I bet they have a graphic standards manual to police those colors too!
I work with colors all the time and just like the paint store scenario, the world of ink on paper and ink in digital form are even more complicated. We speak in formulas like Pantone, CMYK, RGB and HEX. To add to the complexity, the substrate is critical — coated or uncoated papers, digital or offset printing — all factor into what color formulas to use in which instance.
So how should you go about policing your brand?
First and foremost, before you print a bunch of things or develop your brand standards guide, you should first consult with an Intellectual Property attorney who specializes in copyright law. He/she can assist you with the process of registering your brand identity with the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). Now, color is considered trade dress and how a product looks, the distinctive image that contributes to the appearance of the product (but not the function of the product), may be protected under Trade Dress law, a part of U.S. Trademark Law.
With all of these color variables, it's critical to create a brand standards guide for you, your internal team and all of your vendor/partners who will be interacting with your brand identity, to make sure they get it right! In addition to the actual guide (be it printed or as a PDF or online resource), are the logos and identity elements pre-designed and packaged up as full color, 2-color, 1-color, black and white and grayscale options.
You should also provide your logos in different file formats (EPS, JPG and PNG) because each format has a different utility. Where EPS files are vector-based (can be scaled up or down without losing their integrity) and ideal for SWAG items and large format needs, PNG files are higher resolution digital files that also allow you to have a transparent background. JPGs are what most people use in their websites because the file size is smaller and won't bog down the site, but does have some limitations. Sometimes JPGs can appear grainy or fuzzy, and be default, come with a geometric background to contain the image.
So as you can see, color is extremely important when it comes to brand building, brand awareness and protecting your brand. I hope this gives you some fresh perspective and encourages you to consider the value color can bring to your business. For any questions, give your friendly neighborhood brand police a call: 410-366-9479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.