A brand starts with a message about why your company is valuable. The message should communicate this value clearly and consistently.
The message should be repeated in your advertising, Web site, collateral, press releases, and every form of contact you have with your customer.
Once you've defined what your company's core message, how can you translate that into an appropriate image tailored to both Web and print?
The Right Feeling
Colors are the most basic visual component of your company's branding.
Colors inspire emotion. There are some basic, well-known formulas: red, orange, and yellow are high-energy and stimulate interest and excitement; blue and green are more stable, calming influences; neutrals communicate confidence.
You don't have to be a psychologist to get the message; for most people, these are intuitive reactions.
Pick the colors that create the atmosphere you want associated with your company. Neutrals evoke a patrician, confident aura, as Nordstrom's branding does. Primary colors create an energetic, fast-paced feel, as McDonald's look does. Pastels suggest a clean, feminine, soft image, like that of Clinique cosmetics.
Your True Colors
High-contrast colors create energy and movement; they cause an optical sense of vibration when paired. FedEx, for example, uses orange and purple for branding. Because these colors are near-opposites, when graphically adjacent, they create an impression of vigorous movement: your package, speeding on its way courtesy of FedEx.
Low-contrast colors tend to be subtler and visually quiet, even when intense shades appear together. If you like the look of strong colors but don't want them dancing in front of your eyes, use low-contrast accents to create a solid, confident effect. Christian Dior uses this approach to convey the sense of classic haute couture.
Colors can incite a strong response and, when mixed, they can create an even stronger effect. McDonalds' use of red, orange, and yellow creates a lively reaction in the viewer by mixing several colors.
Conversely, by narrowing the palette to a single color, you can keep the effect simple and classic. Elizabeth Arden uses a high-energy color, red. But by keeping the color scheme simply red, the company conveys the brand value of understated elegance.