Colour Palettes: How We Start Our Process


We recently developed a brand identity with a colour palette that was 50% black and white. That's right, we only added 2 colours to the brand. It got me thinking about how we choose colours for a brand, and how much of that is based on traditional colour theory, or not.

choosing colours for your brand and making an effective colour palette
Salt Design Co. Calibrate Brand Colours

The colour palette in question ๐Ÿ‘†๐Ÿผ has both black and white as two of it's core colours. Now for most brands, black and white is always an option. It has to be: for print materials, for anything that might not be available in colour, or for laying text on top of photos. Those base colours are super handy, and every brand can use them, whether or not they've been included in the official brand palette. 

And that's what got me thinking. Because for this brand, we felt perfectly ok including them and saying that they weren't just standard options, but that they were part of the core brand. So, why do we do this?

We choose colour palettes based on strategy, and physical application, not just on colour theory. 

What does that mean? It For most brands that means we build colour palettes that look something like this: 

  • 1 x  dark colour
  • 1 x  bright or light colour
  • 1-2 x mid range colours

Here's a couple of examples:


These examples, pulled from recent projects, show that we always choose a good range of colours. The reason why we do this is to ensure legibility, as well as personality. Having 1 light colour that can contrast with a darker colour helps with readability of text and logos, gives brands a range of options and ultimately allows for flexibility. The other colours can be somewhere in between those two in terms of brightness, and normally bring in extra personality. 

The darker colours of a brand often represent more serious and professional aspects, while bright, strong colours fill a brand with energy and personality. We like to make sure our brands have a mixture of these with at least 3 colours to work with. 

Now, we're not saying we totally ignore colour theory when putting a final palette together - we don't, at all! But, we do base most of our brand projects around the theory that a brand isn't strong, if it can't be used effectively. So for us, that means approaching colour with a full wheel in mind before delving into the specifics.