Why Should You Care About Colour Theory?

Colour Theory - Should You Care?

When it comes to your branding, colour matters.

Think about Tiffany & Co, with its iconic duck egg blue; McDonald’s and its instantly recognisable red and yellow branding; Asda and its green and white. Tiffany & Co even went as far as trademarking their colour and not allowing it to be used anywhere else.

But what makes colour so valuable in marketing?

According to a study conducted by Loyola University Maryland, the brain registers colour before visuals or typography. According to the same study, colour can boost brand recognition by up to 80% — for example, in logo design.

What is colour theory?

What is colour theory

Colour theory is a set of rules and standards that designers and marketers / employ to communicate with users through visually appealing colour schemes. Designers employ a colour wheel and extensive research on human optical ability, psychology, culture, and more to pick the ideal colours every time.

When Sir Isaac Newton developed the colour wheel in 1666, he founded the colour theory. Colours, according to Newton, are human perceptions of light wavelengths, not objective attributes.

There are three main categories of colour: primary (red, blue and yellow), secondary (mixes of the primary colours) and intermediate/tertiary (mixes of primary and secondary colours). The properties of these colours then depend on the hue (what colour it appears), the chroma (the purity of the colour) and the lighting (how pale or vivid it is). 

As you can see, colour is not quite so simple as it seems, which is why you should care about colour theory when choosing colours for your logo, branding and marketing strategy. 

What is the importance of colours in marketing?

What is the importance of colours in marketing

It is what makes your audience see what you want them to see, feel what you want them to feel, and act as you wish. The colours you choose can have an impact on usability and whether or not material is readable.

Poor colour selection, on the other hand, can detract from the impact of your message. If you get it wrong, your fantastic content and compelling call to action will be overlooked.

Large corporations with big branding and marketing budgets and departments have been aware of the importance of colour for years, but when it comes to launching a new brand or refreshing your brand identity, it is important to consider the emotional connection that a customer can have with a specific colour. For example, muted colours can give off a sense of sophistication and class, while bright and bold colours can really shout about your brand.

Some of the emotions that we associate with various colours include:

  • Yellow – optimism and warmth
  • Orange – friendliness and confidence
  • Red – danger and excitement
  • Purple – creative and wise
  • Blue – trustworthy and strength
  • Green – peaceful and growth
  • Grey – balance and calm


However, it is important to be aware that in different countries and cultures, different colours can symbolise different things. For example, in the UK, we associate white with peace and purity, but go across to Asia and it represents mourning. Of course, if you intend to stay based in the UK, it may not be something to worry about, but if you intend on going global at any point or want to attract an international customer base, it is something to bear in mind.

Using colour contrasting correctly in your marketing materials

Using colour contrasting correctly

When it comes to colour methods, contrast is especially crucial.

The way one hue contrasts with another is called contrast. It is what distinguishes text or objects from the background. When colours have a lot of contrast, they may easily be distinguished from one another. When they don’t, the contrast is low.

Contrast is usually thought to be created by a difference in colour, although this isn’t always the case. You could have two perfectly different colours that have no contrast since their tones are the same. To check the contrast of your colours, convert them to grayscale and compare them.

Colours have inherent variances in how light and dark they are in their purest form.

For example, yellow is brilliant, whereas blue is darker. Despite the fact that yellow and orange are different colours, there is little distinction between them. When distinct colours have the same tone, there will be little contrast between them. It’s not enough to choose two different colours.

High contrast is generally the greatest choice for important content because it is the easiest to see. The simplest to read is dark on light or light on dark. It is not thrilling, but it is much easier on the eye. However, if everything on the screen or in your marketing materials is high contrast, the important information will be lost. 

Many designers prioritise low contrast because aesthetically it looks pleasing, but in terms of content readability, it is not always the best idea – tone on tone can be very difficult to read.

To find a balance that is both beautiful and readable, stick to just two or three colours – more than that and it can be too overwhelming. Look for colours that are opposite one another on the colour wheel as they generally have the perfect balance when it comes to contrast and complementing one another. Red and green, for example – your eyes will naturally be drawn to a small spot of red on a green background and vice versa. 

Final thoughts

Of course, there are all of the rules and guidelines, but when it comes down to it, different things work for different things, and you need to test various things out. What colour scheme works on Facebook, for example, may not necessarily work on Twitter and just because something works for your digital media does not mean it will work for print media. Use focus groups, test various things out and be amenable to change when necessary – but knowing the basics of colour theory, the emotions that particular colours will invoke and what is more visually appealing in general will startt you off on the right foot when it comes to choosing the colours for your branding.