As a speaker at The Dieline Conference last month, I found myself looking more and more at how color enhances or dilutes a brand’s strength in the form of packaging. One alarming phenomenon that I noticed was that some brands are looking disjointed and losing brand strength on the shelf due to drastically different color stories across the different pillars. I have come to the realization that the actual analogy of brand as an architecture composed of pillars is the major culprit. “Architecture and pillars” are static and fixed terms. Brands are growing entities that evolve over time. They are 4-dimensional, dynamic, organic and more akin to living organisms. They are not structures stuck in time that need to be redecorated every two or three years.
I encourage designers to think of color as “the spice of design.” It seasons the forms, shapes, and textures. The unique balance of the colors along with the other design elements work harmoniously in the context of the brand story to give it meaning. Layering a good color story over a well composed brand story lets us make personal and emotional connections with consumers. Color can delight and evoke powerful emotions if it is crafted this way.
A more left brain way to use color is as a classifier: Think of the color tabs on file folders and other structures for the purpose of navigation. While navigation is important to the brand it is not the sole factor to consider when designing with color. If we think of the brand in purely “architectural” terms the navigation factor can take over and color can go totally awry. We can over-classify and segment the brand by painting the pillars with well differentiated, but loosely related, color stories. The brand gets disjointed and looses overall brand strength.
I encourage you to consider an alternative model for brand—the brand story. I much prefer an analogy of a story with chapters versus a concept of architecture divided into pillars. The model of story is much more supportive of an organic holistic brand, design, and color process. In it, we have a delightful weaving of different chapters that work together to create the whole final compelling story. The architecture/pillar model often yields a collection of disjointed short stories that just happen to be bound by a similar cover. Give this paradigm shift a try and see if your brand color and design strategy improves. I’d love to hear your thoughts!