Branding Guidelines. A Technical Colour Specification or The Danger of a double ‘D’ and the difference it can make….

Just imagine having a great logo and branding then passing it to another person who designs a leaflet or website and produces it using the slightly wrong colour or a mismatched font. It may not matter to them but to you the whole leaflet looks awful and not how you imagined. This article is about why it happens when there are no ‘Branding Guidelines’ and what to do about it.

Specifying ‘Red’ for your logo can mean any shade from orange to pink the colour range of reds is vast.

All colours used in design for print and web pages can be technically specified in terms of ‘CMYK’, ‘RGB’ or ‘HEX’ (there are other formats but these are the most common). If you have a good branding you will want the colours from your logo and identity to be consistent.

However when a lazy Designer can’t be bothered to check and uses a colour eyedropper to replicate the colour from a graphic or a website, your whole document or even site page can look completely wrong.

The trouble is, this ‘shortcut’ is not accurate. On a website the screen graphics will be made up of dots and not all the dots will be exactly the same colour so the problem occurs when the eyedropper picks up the wrong pixel!

It may not be a million miles out but it can give a totally different tone to the new design altogether.

That is why Branding Guidelines and technical colour specifications are essential when building your brand.

A colour specification is made up of several numbers relevant to the mix of colours that are used to create it depending on the colour system used.

In print, the colours you see as an end result are created by 4 separate screens, cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Each screen is printed one colour at a time building 4 layers of coloured dots that produce the final full colour result. Each colour required is made up of a percentage of each of the four colours. If one of the percentages is wrong the whole colour could change completely. For example too much magenta will make the colour purple rather  than blue. Too much black will make the colours too dark. This happens with web graphics as well but the colour model for screens uses light not ink ‘RGB’ (red green blue) but the idea is the same. Specifying a hex colour and getting one number or letter wrong can be disastrous!

This is where a double ‘D’ can make all the difference!

Specifying your colours in the correct colour mode which is relevant to how it will be produced is essential and good practice.

For consistency and accuracy when printing, Designers and Printers use ‘The Pantone Colour Matching System’ that standardises colour reproduction. Choosing a Pantone swatch colour (or ‘spot’ colour) for your branding usually guarantees whenever it is used the colour will be consistent who ever prints it.

However although an excellent guide your branding will not always be printed using spot colours – in fact rarely as the cost is much higher. Most commercial printing is now done using the 4 colour printing process and your pantone colour has to be converted into CMYK. This is not always accurate and may need some tweaking.

Problems can occur when it is not possible to convert the chosen colour exactly. To save complications it is sensible to have all colours specified in all colour modes.

Your Branding Guidelines do not have to be over complicated. A simple style guide and colour specification saves the Designer’s time as it is immediately available which in turn will save you money.

Each Branding Guidelines should show CMYK, RGB, Pantone spec coated or uncoated and Hex, it should Include fonts in the specification so the designer will be able to identify what your chosen style is without trawling the internet trying to match it.

In some cases when the required printed materials are so varied, colours should also be specified for various papers as printing onto glossy paper will give a different colour result to printing on an uncoated letterhead. (See Pantone uncoated/coated ref above)

If colour is important to you – and it should be – make sure you know what colours your logo and your branding uses. 

If you have never been given a Branding Guidelines or Colour Specification it is simple and not expensive to ask a Designer to produce one for you. This can be a great opportunity to pull your branding together making it more consistent and uniform without the cost of having a new branding designed.

Call me to discuss your colours!

angie phillips Written by Angie Phillips, Design Consultant - Helping you create business by creating effective design with expertise and efficiency. Personally committed to my clients and always happy to offer advice. Promoting and helping you to grow through strategic introductions even after our work is done. More design tips and useful information here