Colour theory is a gigantic and fascinating topic, that can be broken down into three main categories. The colour wheel, colour harmony, and the context of how colours are used. The main area we will be looking at is how colours are used, but first a bit of background.
Colour harmony refers to the property that certain aesthetically pleasing colour combinations have. These combinations create pleasing contrasts that are said to be harmonious. As seen in the colour wheels below there are multiple different versions of this, but the most pleasing is the complementary colour palette. These are colours on the opposites side on the colour spectrum to one another, which we find the most pleasing to look at. For example, blue and orange, which we see in nature through a bright blue sky and golden beaches. This use of the colour wheel and colour harmony is harnessed not only to create pleasing imagery but also to convey emotion.
Whether they realise it or not. Consumers are influenced every day by colour. Influenced to feel an emotion that they may notice with the more obvious and well-used colour schemes, such as showing good and evil through the most common colours of blue and white symbolising good and Black and red defining evil. But they may not notice this in branding. A random colour isn’t chosen for a brand because the owner likes it. It is chosen by what sector they are in. For corporate, you think of blue and with construction, you think of yellow.
Take Ferrari. They use a hot red which defines excitement, boldness and passion. If Ferrari had used colours from the opposite side of the colour wheel, we do not get the same sense of excitement from an aqua blue shade as we do from a hot red. Meaning Ferrari might not have the same global representation as it does today just through what colour their brand is.
By looking at multiple slides from different movies put together. We can see a huge comparison in colour. This is what is known as the colour grade. Colour grading is the process of altering and enhancing the colour of a film. Now when we look at each slide it is obvious that a colour grade has been put over the film, but when we watch the film, we tend not to notice. If we look at the two pictures on the left (red and orange), we get the emotions of excitement, passion but also caution and urgency. If we move more towards the cooler colours, such as blue, we get the senses of calm, inner security and trust. Just from the choice of the colour chosen, we already get a sense of the story being told.
In essence, using colour theory in branding and everywhere else it is used is about sending a message without saying anything. This is what you want to accomplish while designing a brand image. By letting people know what kind of business you are and who your target demographic is, just by the colour design of your brand. So the next time you watch a movie or see a brand, have a think of what message they are sending through colour.