Signage and the Effective use of Colour
The human eye can see ten million colours, and the way people react to this spectrum of tones and shades can significantly affect a company’s profile and personality. From signage to soft furnishings, choosing a colour scheme is an important process that can have a real impact on how customers view a brand – and even whether or not they trust it…

Some colour connotations are obvious. Red has been subconsciously associated with danger since we were primates, while green has become so inextricably linked with environmentalism that its name is commonly used as shorthand for being ‘eco’. White is connected with purity, from fresh snow to wedding dresses, and bright pink acts as aesthetic shorthand for female youthfulness. Warmer colours are uplifting and confident, whereas cooler and more natural tones convey a calm authority.

It’s therefore easy to appreciate why a wind turbine manufacturer might want to incorporate a splash of green in their logo, or why long-established market leaders often display their company names against plain black backdrops that suggest solidity and confidence. Look down your local high street, and you’ll see subtle variations of certain colours competing for attention across projection signs and fascia boards. Blue is very popular, from chemists to bakers, since it denotes consistency. A sausage roll in Aberdeen should taste the same as it does in Aberystwyth, and blue signage subliminally reassures us of this.

Of course, we aren’t always aware of our reaction to colour – it’s one of the many things our eyes process subconsciously. We’re more likely to move out of the way of a red car on the motorway than a brown one, and we’re more likely to feel comfortable walking across a brown carpet than a red one. Even at a movie premiere, people will often skirt round the red carpet rather than walk along it. It’s therefore vital to consider what we want a brand to say, before deciding how to style public spaces or which shades to use in signage.

If you want to create a welcoming environment in retail or customer-facing areas, soft and light colours are always preferable. Dark tones can feel closed-in, whereas pale pastel shades look clean and inviting. A splash of bold colour in furnishings or wayfinding signage can neatly offset this neutrality, such as orange (artistic and confident) or purple (individualistic and creative). Supermarkets tend to feature signage using their corporate colours, to reinforce their brand at every opportunity. If your logo has white-on-yellow lettering, yellow panelling and POS cladding will deliver a sense of consistency to the public. Interestingly, scientific studies have proved that yellow catches the eye faster than any other colour.

It’s also crucial to consider the environments colours will be displayed in. External signage should be bright to stand out amid cluttered streetscapes (or competitor brands), and it’s more important to be bold here than internally. It’s dark for sixteen hours a day in winter, so consider how particular colours look when illuminated – purple can be mistaken for black, and brown may look flat and lifeless. This won’t be an issue indoors, assuming diffused lighting allows each colour to stand out properly; darkness is rarely a positive in public areas.

Of course, your company’s colour scheme may have already been decided, and it’s simply necessary to organise its rollout within pre-defined parameters. However, when the opportunity arises for rebranding, it’s important to consider what the key messages are for consumers to take away. Identifying which colours encapsulate the personality or ethos of your brand can go a long way towards deciding how best to represent it.