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Factors Influencing the Interpretation of Color and Font

Monday, September 10, 2018 7:30 AM | Christy Hendricks (Administrator)

In last weeks’ post, Using Style and Persona in Your Visual Brand Identity, we noted that color palettes, fonts, color blocks, and the use of negative space make up some of the elements of style.

This week, I want to dive deeper into the impact color and font have on the perception of your brand. When choosing your elements of style, you are actively steering how your brand is perceived. Therefore, it’s important to align these style elements with your brand’s purpose and message.

Our Instinctual and Emotional Response to Color

In The Importance Of Color In Brand Strategy, Thomson Dawson notes, “The color of your brand is an essential character in your brand’s story. When choosing a color to represent your brand, you must think far beyond your personal, subjective preferences.”

In other words, color has consequences.

No one questions that fact that humans experience instinctual and emotional responses to color. We can all relate to that moment of caution or heightened alertness whenever we see the color red. And it’s easily explained by the science of light.

The long wavelengths of red and orange, for example, arouse excitement and even a sense of danger, while the shorter wavelengths of blue and green give us feelings of calm and tranquility. These responses make sense on an instinctual level.

Instincts alone, don’t always reflect reality, though.

Consider the colors of a wildfire. Humans would need to instinctively know to stay away to avoid harm but the heat and smoke that accompany fire would also be deterrents. Some apples are red, so how do we know to avoid poisonous red berries? 

Blue skies prompt feelings of wellbeing and the desire to be outdoors, which in turn, exposures us to sunlight for a daily dose of vitamin D “happy juice.” But what to do about the many poisonous plants that are green?

Influencers on the Perception of Color

Though powerful in themselves, emotions and instincts aren’t the only factors at play in our responses to color. The influence of societal constructs and culture are just as strong. Mental associations are created by the repeated images, messages, and experiences we encounter daily. (How many times does a society have to witness the death of individuals after eating a certain type of red berry before it associates that berry with death?)

We’ve come to associate the color blue with professionalism, reliability, authority, and trustworthiness. That’s why it’s used so commonly in law enforcement and healthcare. In The Importance Of Color In Brand Strategy, Thomson Dawson advises us, “For strong, well managed brands, color is more than a subjective choice–it’s a strategic business imperative.”

And playing with color is not mere child’s play. Getting it wrong can mean disaster if used incorrectly. Consider, for example, that red, which we often associate with sensuality, power, and evil, is also used in children’s brands.  Combined in color blocks with blue, green, and yellow and using the right font makes all the difference.

The Interpretive Power of Font

 Fonts help communicate your message. They may be formal or casual, masculine or feminine, bold or subdued, and a great many more. But more than a style element alone, they are the dot of the “i,” the cross of the “t,” and the period at the end of your branding statement. 

Without font for context, colors can be misinterpreted. Just look at our example of the use of red above. Your logo, especially, should display a font consistent with your brand, and steer a perception that best matches what you want to convey.

Don’t be afraid to mix fonts. The result just may surprise you! Variety adds an eye-catching quality to the text. It helps the eye to land on the more important, or primary, words in the text. While you want your audience to remember your tagline, it’s probably more important to you that they remember your name.

Canva illustrates this fact in their article entitled, Build your brand: How to choose the right fonts.” Included are large scale examples showing the mixing of different fonts. The resulting look and feel of the samples can also serve as suggestions to use in your own branding. Of course, to maintain continuity, you would want to use the same combinations across all mediums: from brand name and tagline to blog titles, headlines, and text.

For a quick tutorial on the free logo maker, Hatchful, be sure to watch this week’s in-service.

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