Welcome to the first issue of Creative Intelligence, a newsletter about color design, trend strategy, and building purposeful connections between brands and consumers. I’m glad you’re here! My mission is to share actionable, helpful insights with you each month – tips that support your process and create impactful wins for you and your business. Let me know what you want to talk about. Reply with a question you have or a topic you’d love to learn more about.
To kick things off this month, let’s start with a critical step in designing a successful, functional color palette, one that often gets neglected…
Give Your Colors Jobs
Yes, give your colors jobs. Every color in your palette needs to have a distinct, identifiable purpose. They each need a job they’ve been vetted for and are gifted at. This ensures your palette is not a stand-alone piece of art but has the capacity to drive your brand’s strategy, engagement objectives, and sales goals.
As you design your color palette, these are the questions you need to ask of each color:
1. What will this color achieve?
What role will this color serve for your brand? What need does it fulfill that other colors in your palette currently don’t? What is its purpose?
Any color in your palette needs to reflect the unique personality of your brand, your consumers, and the meaningful space where you two intersect. It needs to incorporate your brand’s strategy, industry, history, and reality. It must go beyond being a forecasted trend color. Each color addition must be dialed to elevate your brand’s individual character, relevance, and market leadership. Each color addition also has a human, marketing, and sales cost – populate your palette with high performers.
2. Who does this color appeal to?
Color is an immediate communicator and the quickest way to emotionally connect with your consumers.
Who will this color speak to – which of your current customers, distribution channels, or targeted areas of growth? Will it appeal to a big enough or valuable enough audience to make its addition worthwhile? What message does it need to send? Make sure you have a clear sense of what each color in your palette is communicating and who it is speaking to. Nail this.
3. What products is this color applicable for?
Look at the products in your line that will get new or additional colors for the season. Does this color make sense for those products – their end-use, materiality, life-cycle, price point?
How often can this color be used? Will it show up frequently enough in the line to adequately convey its message and be worth the investment? In that same vein, how can this color be applied – as an all-over color, combined with multiple other palette hues, only as an accent? Does this justify its value?
4. Is this color a team-player?
Does this color merchandise well with the other colors in your palette? Does it allow you to create sellable color assortments across products? Is it a color workhorse that can be paired with multiple colors in your palette? Does it inject calculated energy into your line?
Color additions should add balance or excitement to your overall palette by working with or off of the other hues.
5. Full-time, part-time, or seasonal?
What kind of commitment are you looking for?
Core color additions need to be foundational, chosen for their ability to merchandise with a wide range of other colors, translate well on the various materials used in your product line, and have sustaining appeal with all or the vast majority of your consumers.
Colors with a longevity of 1-2 years can be more nuanced and chosen specifically to align with the near-future priorities and lifestyles of your consumers. These colors will be the dominant visual communicators of your brand’s ethos, culture, and values.
Seasonal colors are timely, precise storytellers. They are opportunities for your brand, and thus your consumer, to express a potent, captivating emotion.