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Best Practices for Graphic Designers, Color Works by John Cantwell, Eddie Opara

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Brian Collins established a simpli-
stic approach using clarity and delight.
Optimum wanted the public to remember
its name. The best method of doing so is
with colors that are fresh and that stand
out from the crowd. Notice the comple-
mentary color use of the period at the
end of the logomark.
Color in
Branding 1
Brian Collins
Color is incredibly subjective. I dont think you see
color. You feel it. Its like music; it goes right through
your system. Its both independent of memory and
deeply connected to memory.
fig. 001
44 Color Works
2.4
Awareness Color in Branding 1
2.1
Coca-Cola always shows that
familiar colors can be used strategically
to create new impressions. With a combi-
nation of the famous red and the original
bottle form, this iconic brand became
rejuvenated and expressive.
In our work with the cable and Internet provider Optimum, the company
wanted to brand itself in a way that made it much more present in
people’s lives. It wanted to reestablish itself as the leading cable com-
pany in its market. So we started by thinking about where Optimum is
seen most. After its set-top boxes, its next most visible platform was
its trucks. The company has 4,000 trucks!
We wanted people to remember the word optimum, to have them think
about it as a value, not just as a company. Therefore, we wanted six
colors to be deployed across all the trucks, so it would feel fresh.
Whenever you saw the trucks, you’d see incredible colors. We chose
the colors that were between other colors—light green, beige, and so
on. They’re sort of quirky colors, but they’re colors that you don’t see
on trucks. It’s interesting to see these quirky colors in the world for
a massive cable company.
The idea was to associate the Optimum service with simplicity and
delight, through color. We weren’t using color as a branding mechanism,
but rather as a behavior. As a result, the brand appears and it starts to
signal the promise of how the Optimum service will make you feel.
Therefore, in this sense color is used very aggressively, very boldly, and
very dramatically—but also very simply.
When it comes to color in branding, you have to come to the table know-
ing there are preferences and prejudices. In order to get over them, you
have to frame your ideas in terms of the project’s ideals. When we
designed the Times Square Alliance Organization, we chose a hot neon
fluorescent pink as the brand color. The logo was pink. The staff jump-
suits were pink. Why? Because Times Square is the most visually aggres-
sive, cacophonous place in the world, and we needed a color that stood
out. Choosing pink wasnt a matter of my personal tastes. Based on the
client’s needs and budget, pink was the best choice.
Now, pink can be a controversial color. It’s loaded with preconceptions.
To show the client its value, we had to have an objective conversation
about how we’d use pink as a tool and as a system. The Alliance had
scores of people in Times Square cleaning the streets, and we wanted
the organization and its employees to get credit for that. Previously, the
Alliances street teams wore gray uniforms, which made them basically
invisible. By increasing their visibility, we were able to better highlight
the Alliance’s work. Just the act of seeing someone sweeping in a pink
Times Square uniform would say, “We care about our environment.”
We wanted to make that operation very visible. The client chose pink
because color was used as a strategy to surface behavior.
Even with very well-established brands, familiar colors can be used
strategically to create new impressions. Coca-Cola is the most famous
brand in the world and it’s the best-distributed brand in the world. You
see it everywhere. The problem is that ubiquity leads to invisibility. We
were approached by Coca-Cola to reimagine what the brand language
would be for revitalizing its icon. We revitalized what had been an under-
leveraged piece of Coca-Colas iconography—the Coca-Cola bottle.
6.5
1.5
2.4
2.2/2.4
fig. 002

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