Inspired by Color: An Interview

Q: What role does color play in your evolution of brand identity?

Color and brand identity are inextricably linked. A brand’s identity is a symbolic presentation of its reason for being in our lives; a visual distillation of its core marketing message. Consequently, the visual language used to communicate this message must be strategic and cannot be arbitrary or based entirely on the personal preferences of marketers, designers or both. Color is an area that tends toward the subjective and much of our work has been to educate marketers that color is a strategic tool … not a mere decorative whim. It is the visual component people remember most about a brand ("I’m looking for the yellow box of film.") followed closely by shapes/symbols (a Coke bottle, for example), then numbers and finally words. A brand that has a core essence of "serenity and calm" could best communicate this personality with light, cool colors rather than heavy, hot ones.

Q: Has the fascination with mid-twentieth century design, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, influenced your work?

Cultural influences and trends must always be taken into consideration when designing brands. However, the personality of the brand must be the primary concern, not what is hot or faddish at the moment. If a brand is best served by an Eames or Nelson personality, then this combinations of brand need and trend is relevant … if however, this type of post-modern visual personality is chosen to encapsulate a brand’s message ONLY because it’s cool now, it will do little to advance the brand in the marketplace.

Q: Where do you look for color inspiration?

Nature, the periphery of culture where the future is bubbling up, architecture, interior design, fashion, cars, children’s books, spas, magazines from all over the world, travel, consumers and photos of their lives, museums, theater, movies, walking around the streets of big cities, prototypes, science fiction.

Q: Can you think of an example of how color played a major role in a package design you worked on?

We’re a brand strategy firm that does a lot of work in visual positioning/color trends, not package design per se. Our work directly impacts the color "zones" of the brand on which we work and had a direct impact on Gillette’s Mach 3/Mach 3Turbo brands and their Venus brands for women.

Cheryl Swanson is the principal of the branding and design firm toniq in New York City.