Chase the rainbow and reap the design benefits

Be more colourful in everything you do, says SomeOne's Laura Hussey, and in doing so inspire others to be as passionate about your brand as you are.

It’s drizzly, it’s grey, everyone is wearing black and I’m a Celebrity is back on the telly, tempting me with the lush green Australian rainforest and its vast, bright blue skies. I’m sick of the dullness of winter. I need some colour. My desire for colour isn’t only at this time of year either, I crave it all year round - in fact I’d go so far as to say I draw energy from it.

Brands can benefit from our desire for colour too. It can help keep conversations intriguing, energetic and rewarding.

A study of the world’s 100 top brands (defined by brand value) saw 95 per cent use only one or two colours. 33 per cent of those top brands would like to think they own the colour blue, and 29 per cent think red is THEIR colour. It suddenly becomes irrelevant; it’s what you do with it that counts. Why be limited?

Take a look at how Oxfam has rebranded with a reinvigorated palette of colours and the mantra ‘provocative optimism’. The charity has to deal with famine and world disasters and yet still has to attract people to be inspired to give money. The most immediate way to do this is through its brand colours. The vibrant colours help to reinforce Oxfam’s positive attitude towards fund raising and boost its rallying cry, making people feel positive about taking part and able to help effect change.

Another brand that recognises the power of colour is The Guardian, whose use of a spectrum of colours to illustrate it’s all-encompassing news. Multiple colours speak of choice, variety and diversity. Think Google, NBC, EBay, or MSN to name but a few that use more than two colours to express their breadth.

We chose a similar approach when we created the brand world for The Halcyon - an exciting development highlighting the best of British art, retail, design, music, exhibitions, gallery and food. The colours used within the brand and environment were derived from, and act as a subtle nod towards the diverse colour palette used during Britain’s great creative periods of the past - our halcyon days, mixed with those we see around us today.

Colours can reflect the emotional outlook of a culture and so it’s no coincidence that as we emerge from the UK’s longest, deepest postwar recession we see a change in colour trends. We want to feel happy and secure, and that’s why we gravitate towards colours that bring about more positive emotions. Think of the striking pink Olympic signage that directed people around London and how happy and talkative people in the city suddenly seemed to be. Even many normally surly locals engaged in casual conversation. The colour got a good showing on many volunteers too. Why? it stands out, it’s appealing. The result? A capital city and thousands of people adorned with a surprisingly bright and appealing shade.

The Dutch artists Haas & Hahn saw this potential when they lived and worked in some of the world’s most violent places. It is unusual to have to ask permission of a drug lord before you can start painting, but in Vila Cruzeiro - generally considered one of Rio’s most dangerous favelas - this is what they had to do. Not just to beautify, but also to create a dialogue with their surroundings. After several successful projects, the image of a square painted in a design of radiating colours yielded worldwide fame and transformed Rio into ‘one of the world’s 10 most colourful places’. It stands out.

Colour doesn’t just benefit worthy causes though - you only need to look at Jonathan Ive’s colour choices for the new iOS 7, or the sweet shop choice of iPhone 5C. More than any iPhone in history, the iPhone 5C is all about colour and personality. Some say Ive was inspired by the well-regarded graphic designer of the late 20th century, Mitsuo Katsui whose designs are known for vibrant use of colours in motion, often placed within wide, single-colour blank spaces. Katsui’s abstract forms also often use transparencies to highlight contrast effects. Similarly, for the launch of Tesco’s first tablet - the Hudl, we wanted to inject warmth into a category that can often be overly technical and unfriendly.

A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence - and to be a great leader - is by demonstrating warmth. Our swooping, curving shapes, multiple warm colours and customised options help to soften what can often be stark & technologically-led communications. Needless to say it sold 35,000 tablets in the first two days and has been praised for bringing beautiful technology to the masses.

‘Be more colourful’ doesn’t have to simply mean ‘use lots of bright colours’ either. A brand can behave more colourfully through their actions, their tone of voice or their inventions. Innocent Drinks has grown from a three-person outfit to a multi-million pound business, a large part of the company’s success can be attributed to the brand’s tone of voice. It has managed to stand out in a saturated drinks market by being friendly and engaging, sometimes even cheeky but always distinctive. It has managed to elevate the brand way above its competitors. Then you have Marmite - a yeast-based spread. Nothing very sexy or colourful about that and yet by being brave enough to recognise their product is hated as much as it is loved it has elevated it to much more than a savoury spread. Its ‘Love/Hate’ campaign has earned them many fans and it’s originality means it’s now used to mean anything which strongly divides opinion. The strength of the brand means it can now expand into other areas, even fashion - ‘Love Marmite, Hate Jams’ as seen on many a trendy fixie rider weaving through traffic.

By creating a brand that can constantly evolve, you can keep the communications engaging and fresh. A colourful brand world allows you to do this by having an extended kit of parts. The new branding for Crystal Ski uses a palette of tools to attract and retain fans. For one of the most emotionally-led purchases of the year the holiday sector has some of the most charmless branding. The new identity will make it easier for people to see some of the many options and services available to Crystal customers. It sets out to clarify the options open to holiday makers in a fun and entertaining way. The new Crystal brand work features an illustrated mountain landscape by Max Longstaff and a new flexible design system which can be assembled as required to work wherever customers are - whether that is in-resort, in-store, online or reading their favourite newspaper.

Brands want fame and monopoly and to do that they must stand out and appeal to human beings, so they need to be more optimistic - more colourful. Who wants 50 shades of grey when you’ve got the choice of the rainbow? This year's summer party took us to Marbella. Dress code: ‘Club Tropicana’. Here at SomeOne we don’t just preach being colourful, we wear it too.

Words: Laura Hussey

Laura Hussey is a design partner at SomeOne.

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