Choosing the Best Colors and Fonts for Your Brand

Distinctive brands are recognized for their colors and fonts.

Target is known for its bold red bullseye. Starbucks is associated with a deep forest green. Coca-Cola has a script font that generations have grown up with.

Choose the Best Colors and Fonts for Your Brand

These colors and fonts are not randomly chosen. There is a deliberate and careful planning process that leads to the selection and design of brand colors and fonts. When choosing brand colors and fonts, it is important to realize that you are building a system that needs to work together harmoniously, as well as delivering a message to your marketplace. Ensure that your colors and fonts enhance your core values and underlying personality instead of working against them.

If you have a limited budget, how do you pick the right colors and fonts for your company? The ones that represent who you are and what you stand for, and help you stand out in the marketplace? Here are some tips to consider as you start building the framework of your brand – your colors and fonts.

First, let’s look at colors.

Find inspiration. Colors can evoke powerful reactions. From an early age, we all have our "favorite" colors. People’s emotions are deeply impacted by the colors of walls or even by the colors in nature. So how can you tap into that power? Look for photographs that grab you. Then use an online color generator to create a color palette based on the colors in your favorite photo.

Look at paintings. Which colors evoke the mood you want your customers to feel? If you want them to be excited about your product or service, choose a bold palette with hot colors. If you want to calm and nurture your customers, consider a more soothing palette of pastels and neutrals.

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Choose the Best Colors and Fonts for Your Brand

Think of the whole palette

Colors exist in the context of other colors. McDonalds is a bold interplay of red and yellow. Pepsi is a blend of red, white, and blue. Dr. Martens is a tapestry of deep black with pops of neon yellow. To be most effective, colors need to operate as a palette, and not as single colors.

Ideally, your palette will have a few bold “driver” colors. These colors will be the driving force behind your logo and other core brand elements. Your palette will also include more neutral colors to ground these driver colors. A turquoise blue is so much richer when it’s used as a “pop” color against an ecru background.

Be cognizant when creating branding and marketing materials, use driver colors sparingly. The majority of the colors in these materials should be more neutral: black, white, or tan. Driver colors should be used to call attention to key elements such as headlines and sub-headlines.

Be consistent

Once you choose your brand colors and fonts, stick to them religiously. Know your Pantone colors or CMYK builds and use the same ones throughout all digital and print materials.

In today’s digital age, color consistency can be a challenge and there will be unavoidable discrepancies. Colors display differently in digital environments than in printed environments. Different people’s monitors can be calibrated differently. But as much as you can, use your defined brand colors throughout.

And now, let’s take a look at how to choose your fonts.

To serif or not to serif?

Serif fonts have a small line extending from each letter.

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In the past, all fonts were serif fonts. Serif fonts are usually easier for the human eye to read, so this font will often be used for large blocks of text. Most novels are written in serif font.

Traditional brands like law firms and medical offices tend to use serif fonts to convey experience and professionalism.

Sans serif fonts are those without small lines, coming from the French word “sans” which means “without.” Sans serif fonts are viewed as more modern. Younger, hipper brands such as tech startups and digital agencies tend to use sans serif fonts to convey innovation and bold ideas.

Serif and sans serif fonts can live together in the same font system. For example, a company may use a sans serif font in its logo but use a serif font in the body copy for its website and email newsletter. It’s fine to mix these fonts, just make sure you have a plan in place instead of randomly putting them together.

Choose different fonts for different tasks

It’s best to divide and conquer when it comes to fonts.

First, decide what font to use for your logo. Then, decide what font to use for your headlines, sub-headlines, and finally your body copy.

Make sure these fonts don’t compete with each other, but rather support and enhance each other. Also, remember the role the font should play in each category. For example, the role of a headline font should be to draw attention; the role of the body copy font should be legibility.

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One quick thing to note: The font in your logo is a special font that should only be used for the logo. Often business owners assume that the font of their logo should be used everywhere. But the net effect is that the logo will stand out less if it sits in a sea of the same font.

Finally, have fun!

Just like all branding exercises, you’re playing in the sandbox of emotions when choosing colors and fonts. So it’s most important to have fun when building your color and font systems. Also, trust your gut. If the color doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If the font feels off, it probably is.

Now, go find the colors and fonts that make your heart sing.

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