Marketer | Writer | Global Citizen

How To Pick Colors Like A Pro

When it comes to choosing colors, people are almost always confident about what looks good on them. After all, they’ve had years to experiment with every shade possible, and know for a fact what works and what doesn’t.

The same can’t be said for picking brand colors. Not only do you not have the luxury of time to experiment, it’s very easy to get things horribly wrong. So we tend to leave color decisions to the experts, ie the agency or the graphic designer.

That said, dabbling in the parts of the color picking process is educational and fascinating, especially if you’re a person who has always been intrigued by colors, color psychology and the like. But if colors bore you, then think of the 5 tools below as simplifiers of irksome tasks, like making your Powerpoint deck look more professional.

Adobe Color Wheel

Cost: Free

Adobe Color Wheel

Think of Adobe’s Color Wheel as the digital version of hand mixing paints on a palette. Move or stretch the arm on the circle to find a shade you like. Choose the color rule — analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc — from the menu on the left. A palette will be produced showing the right shades.

If you click on the Explore tab, you’ll find palettes that other people have produced, which you can upvote or download. If you wish to save your palette (retrievable in the My Themes tab), you’ll have to sign up for an Adobe ID.

Adobe Color palettes

Got a photo with colors that make your heart beat faster? Then you’ll love this neat feature. Click on the camera icon underneath the Sign In link on the right — if you mouse over the camera it’ll say ‘Create from Image’. Upload a photo and the program will extract the colors into a palette based on a color mood you choose. The dropdown menu on the left has five different color moods and one custom which allows you to cherry pick the shades you want from the picture.

In this example, I’ve used a screen grab of a page from Elle Decor France, an interior design magazine that always makes me want to rearrange my furniture and distress my walls. Adobe extracted the greens and chocolates and created a muted palette.

Adobe Color Wheel palette from photograph

Coolors.co

Cost: Free

Coolors homepage

Adobe Color Wheel has so many useful features — it’s like the Swiss Army Knife of color planning — but sometimes you just want to mess around in one area without getting distracted by everything else going on.

Like what if you just wanted to play around with the palettes? This is where Coolors.co comes in.

The only thing Coolors does is spit out palettes. Fool-proof, pretty ones. All you have to do is click on the Generate link, which brings you to a row of five color bars. You can start with one hex code, then tap on your space bar for Coolors to come up with suggestions. You can also lock colors to remember the shades you want, or calibrate a shade up or down until you find one to your liking.

The palette below is the one I built for this website. I started with two shades that I really liked: Blush pink and a blackish purple like OPI’s Lincoln Park in the Dark nail polish. Once I put in the two hex codes, Coolors came up with the three other suggestions.

A sample palette from Coolors

It’s important to know that each shade must have a role to play and not just be merely decorative. In this informative blog post by Adobe, an ideal palette is broken down by one neutral color, two ‘pop’ colors and one call-to-action (CTA) color. You’ll find that having structure such as this in creating a palette will head off potential headaches in future, eg H1s or headlines that don’t stand out from body copy.

Hello Color

Cost: Free

Hello Color

Sometimes you don’t need an entire palette — all you need is a contrasting color that doesn’t look like dreck. You want to achieve what Pablo Picasso once mused aloud in wonder: ‘Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?’

Hello Color is as minimal as it gets. Just type in the hex code of your preferred color in the URL’s c parameter (see the visual below on where to find it) and it’ll spit out a fine matching color that you’d never have thought of, as well as other shades. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

How customize Hello Color

Brand Colors

Cost: Free

Brand Colors homepage

Now that you’ve had a go at creating palettes and seen some not-too-shabby results, you may be interested in replicating the palettes of specific brands. Perhaps you’ve seen the below infographic that spurred the idea, or read up on color theory and want to apply these insights to your own brand. Hey if red works for Virgin and Tesla …

Color Emotion Guide by The Logo Company

Brand Colors is a library of colors for 600+ brands, with an even spread across US and international names. All the hex codes are spelt out and you can download them for reference. The logos are sourced from official documentation such as identity/brand guidelines of press kits. If you are the steward of your company brand and think it ought to be featured, you can certainly suggest it to the site’s owner, Galen Gidman.

Brand Colors is not perfect — Boise State University is on the list while Apple isn’t — but it’s a great place to start researching other brands’ palettes and noting how they’re used.

Color Name

Cost: $.99

How Color Name works

Let’s say you’re out and about and saw a very fetching scene, the colors of which are so ravishing you’re inspired to create a palette.

You can take a photo with your iPhone and upload the photo to Adobe Color Wheel. Or you could download the Color Name app for 99 cents and start on your palette right there and then.

What’s neat about Color Name is that it identifies colors by name — what’s scarlet for you could be fuchsia for me — thus minimizing confusion. Just tap your finger on any part of the photograph and the app will provide the RGB specs and its official name for the color you picked. Tap on the color’s name at the top and it will bring you to a screen with RGB, CMYK, HSB and hex codes for the color plus three similar Pantone shades to consider.

All these apps demystify what we’ve always thought of as a skill belonging only to the artistically gifted. Choosing colors that look great is actually much more a science that it is an art.

‘Not only can color, which is under fixed laws, be taught like music, but it is easier to learn than drawing, whose elaborate principles cannot be taught,’ said French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix, who lived in the 1800s. He may not have foreseen the wondrous 21st century tools that can do just that, but would’ve certainly appreciated the vistas they have opened for the non-artists among us.

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Going For Woke: How Brand Activism is the New Path to Profit

‘These creatives are trying to make their toilet paper save the world.’
 
So opined fellow creative Rob Baiocco of BAM Connection, who was wryly commenting in a Guardian article about marketers’ new pursuit of social justice cred.
 
Is endowing the most banal of products with meaning as ludicrous as one would think? In October 2017, because the subject intrigued me as a marketer, I conducted my own research using SurveyMonkey.
 
The findings showed that, increasingly, consumers choose brands that are aligned with their values and shed those they perceive as a mismatch.

The Anatomy Of A Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

With crowdfunding transaction values expected to hit $1.04 billion in 2018, it’s tempting to think that with a bit of elbow grease and a lot of social buzz that any entrepreneur could have a slice of that enormous pie.

There are reams of information on how to create a successful crowdfunding campaign, how to pick the best crowdfunding platform and the most successful crowdfunding projects. They’re packed with detail and offer so much great advice that you don’t need another blog post regurgitating what was said.

You may, however, want to take a closer look at a current (2018) case study of a campaign that worked. This campaign is Wado, a line of sustainable sneakers created by a trio of Barcelona-based entrepreneurs. The Kickstarter campaign goal in March was to raise 11,000 euros or about $13,500. Instead the campaign raised 363,761 euros or nearly $447,000.

A lot of what the Wado team did will reiterate the points raised in this excellent piece by seasoned crowdfunder Khierstyn Ross. In fact if there is only one article about crowdfunding that you are willing to read, by all means choose hers because a) it’s grounded in experience and b) it doesn’t sugar coat.

I discovered the the Wado campaign not on Kickstarter, which I seldom visit, but through the daily email sent by Inside Hook. First lesson of successful crowdfunders:

The imagery was flawless

‘Pictures are worth a billion pixels.’ That’s the money quote from a Thrillist story about how Netflix’s new algorithm was serving up images based on viewer behavior and preferences. The entertainment behemoth’s research showed that artwork made up 82% of a viewer’s focus when scrolling through choices to watch.

The same principle applies to crowdfunding platforms where there are lots of distractions. Quality visuals elevate campaigns from the noise. Analyses of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns show that they all had compelling imagery in common. A UK study of Kickstarter campaigns found that a project with a video was 85% more likely to be funded.

Wado had shot after shot of the shoes, all beautifully taken, with or without models. It also had photographs of the founders, the factory, the shoes in production. There was video of the founders and video of the shoes. In short, there was no shortage of eye candy to tempt and convince. On the Inside Hook email, Wado’s imagery made me click through to their Kickstarter campaign.

They used other media, not just social

The Wado team had obviously diversified its marketing portfolio to spread the word through sites like Inside Hook which has a significant audience. It’s interesting to note that the media coverage spanned the globe, with articles in French, German and Dutch.

In her piece, Ross said having a social media strategy was fine, just don’t rely on it completely. ‘While having thousands of Twitter followers and likes on your Facebook page is great for social proof, it will not move the needle the way you need it to.’

She champions a good, not purchased, email list in getting much-needed traction during the crucial first few days of a crowdfunding campaign. It’s likely Wado’s email list played a part in achieving the next point:

The campaign reached 92% of its goal in less than 24 hours

Ross says it’s essential that a campaign raises 30-40% of its funding goal in the first three days for it to be picked up by Kickstarter or Indiegogo’s ‘popularity algorithm’. A hot campaign will be picked up and featured prominently on the site, where it will be enthusiastically funded by more people. Success breeds success.

On Kickstarter, Wado’s campaign was featured on ‘Projects We Love’, a popular section of the crowdfunding site, halfway through the campaign. On Indiegogo, where Wado was 3,307% funded on March 31st, the campaign lives on in Indiegogo’s InDemand while also being featured on the first page of the Fashion & Wearables category.

Wado on Indiegogo

There was an element of gamification

To entice donors to spread the word and maybe even purchase another pair, the team created stretch goals during the campaign:

  • If funding reached 25,000 euros (a little over $30,000), one more color choice would be added, with followers empowered to pick from three variants. The goal was reached in three days and the winning color, beige, was unlocked.
  • If funding reached 250,000 euros (approximately $307,000 and change), the team would throw in a cotton drawstring shoe bag for every pair. As the campaign surpassed this target, the shoe bag is now a certainty.

All throughout, the team posted updates on Kickstarter in addition to email updates, keeping the shoes very top-of-mind for funders and increasing the likelihood of them amplifying the campaign. This note, for example, was meant to clarify shoe sizes but a link was included for recipients to share on Facebook. Who hasn’t gone onto social media to crow about his or her latest find?

Wado sneaker email for funders

The timing was impeccable

Timing is critical in a campaign’s success — you want to catch your funders when they’re most in the mood to open their wallets. And the Wado team, whether by design or accident, couldn’t have chosen a better time to launch a retro-inspired sneaker.

Sneaker sales have been soaring, thanks to the athleisure trend. According to the NPD Group in 2017, lifestyle running shoes grew more than 40 per cent in the third quarter alone. All major, mid-market and mass fashion brands have launched their own versions of sneakers. The best proof yet that sneakers are hot? Gucci’s current cult footwear is not its signature loafers but its Stan Smith-like Ace sneaker.

Wado is also tapping into the current zeitgeist for retro footwear. There’s been a general wave of nostalgia for the 70s and 80s which hasn’t crested yet. You can see it in the popularity of Netflix’s Stranger Things, the re-emergence of bowl haircuts and scrunchies, and a renewed fervor for vinyl and mixed tapes.

Sustainability was a key message

Mindless consumption brings on the guilt, but conscious capitalism makes shoppers feel virtuous. In all of Wado’s material, sustainability was as important a message as the retro inspiration:

  • Every purchase of a pair means two trees planted in northeastern India
  • Wado sneakers are constructed from chromium-free leather
  • Manufacturing is done in Portugal; no sweatshop labor in Asia

The Wado team even adopted a hashtag, #playgreen.

The takeaway from all this? It may not seem obvious but there had been months of preparation behind the scenes before Wado surfaced on Kickstarter, something to remember if you are ever in the mind to crowdfund your next big idea.

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