This content was originally posted on WrapsodyBaby.com, a website and babywearing business formerly owned by the author.
The importance of color and branding
In my business, color has always been at the forefront. Adding color to plain wraps in the form of batik appliques is how I started my business in 2004. As a kitchen table mompreneur, I didn’t actually know anything about color and branding. I didn’t have a color palette. I didn’t even have a logo. But I had a passion for color and beauty and bringing joy to parents.
My first website was inspired by my products — I handed my designer a couple of wraps and a hair scarf, and she fashioned them into a border for the site, adding a picture of me in the hair scarf, which became my logo. At each iteration of my branding, I’ve used colorways to inspire me — GypsyMama 2.0 used Iris. GypsyMama3.0 became Wrapsody and used Freya and Aphrodite, and 4.0 added the colors of irises and black-eyed Susans. I have felt awash in beautiful color.
How to create or update your own color palette
Before you start, you need to know your customer. Who is (s)he? What is she attracted to; what does she value?
Next, you need to know who your competition is. Look at their color and branding. Are there common elements? What stands out? Once you’ve noticed this, you must resolve not to use their key elements or colors. The colors you choose should allow a customer to quickly know that you and your competitors are different.
Third, learn about color theory. My favorite ever article on the subject is hosted on HelpScout, and you can read it there. The takeaway: Color theory is bunk, really — as accurate as Tarot cards. (Although you can read a TON on popular colors and studies on the effect of colors in branding in different markets.) Your market — their age, their location, their experiences — it will all change they way they perceive your colors and brand. And the most important thing is a synchronicity between your brand and your message as conveyed by things like color.
To begin crafting your palette, you need a starting place. Complete this statement in one sentence, if possible:
“Imaging I am communicating using only colors on a wall. When someone sees my colors, I want them to immediately get the sense my brand is [fill in some adjectives or descriptive phrases].”
Excellent. Next, check this out — some different ways to choose harmonious colors. It is essential, if you wish to craft your own palette, that you learn a bit about color theory. Even if you are hiring this out, it’s still helpful to know a little, though hiring an excellent designer can make it unnecessary.
Lastly, it can be helpful to choose a starting point, a single color that you begin with as you work your palette out.
Our journey to update
Since GypsyMama 3.0/shifting to Wrapsody, we’ve had two colors follow us — Freya-inspired green and Aphrodite-inspired purple. Over the years, I’ve found myself using the purple less and less, and the green has shifted to a muddy yellow that feels increasingly “dated” to me. I decided to skip the purple in my new palette and keep the overall flavor of the green but to update it from the grapevine color it currently is to a more grassy color with fewer yellow tones.
I am not an artist in the general sense, so working with the color wheel is tricky for me. I laid out some of our favorite product photos — photos that conveyed the energy, personality, and “sense” that I want my brand to offer. I use our current orange a lot, so I pulled out an orange from the photo — a beautiful, rich, and vibrant color that will work well as an accent. From there, I played with blues, purples, and ultimately, went back to black-eyed Susan flowers and sunflowers. My mind’s eye kept going back to this photograph from a photoshoot in Cambridge last summer, and I started using a color picker to find the yellow that would make me happy and suit my other colors.
All that was left was to choose a light neutral and a dark neutral. This is not strictly necessary, of course, but for me, I am accustomed to having them and use them quite often in creating images with text. This was tricky — currently, we use a rich, dark coffee-bean color and a grey or pale green, depending on the context. Ultimately, I decided that a dark charcoal-navy and a very pale green-cream offered exactly what I wanted.
Consider how you’ll use the colors
How will YOUR BRAND use colors? Planning your color and branding without planning HOW you’ll use them will prevent you from using them optimally. Mine uses our colors on the web, on social media, and on packaging. Packaging is a big piece of our consideration — we have three main lines in our brand, and we like to package them in a way that is harmonious yet allows them to be distinct. The loss of the purple and blue would mean letting go of the colors I’ve used to denote our Hybrid and WrapDuO lines. I began worrying over this as well as wondering if the colors would actually convey what I wanted them to, and I realized that it was the perfect time to take it to the experts.
Ask your audience
Within ten minutes, I was able to craft a short SurveyMonkey. The first question asked my customers and retailers to assign one color to each line to see if there was an obvious front-runner (there was for two lines, which by default, assigned a color to the third).
The second question offered a list of adjectives to survey respondents. Some were negative, some were positive, some were the adjectives I hoped they’d choose, and others were adjectives I did NOT want my brand to convey. I asked them to check all that applied, then used SurveyMonkey’s handy feature that allows me to randomize the order of the choices for each survey respondent.
Within 12 hours of posting on our Facebook wall, I had over a hundred responses. I checked in several times, and overall, the answers stayed the same in ratio to one another, which offered me a sense of consistency and accuracy. I had hoped to convey a bit more friendliness, but the mix is so close to exactly what I was aiming for that I’m going to consider this a home run.
(Another cool SurveyMonkey feature — I was able to take out the outliers when analyzing my data to let me hone in on the important responses — here, I’ve removed all responses that received fewer than 20 votes).
My hope is that since I’m keeping the green and orange so close to the ones I already use, that paired with the logo I’ve used for 7 years, it will hold my consistency of branding. I’m excited about it. And ultimately, when I pair our new palette with two of my favorite photos, the colors seem exactly right — a kind, confident, creative woman playing and caring for her children as she lives life, unafraid to find joy.
Bear in mind this is all from the perspective of an entrepreneur who is NOT a designer first — I’d love to hear your own opinions, perspectives, and what’s worked for you in choosing your own color palettes!
And let me know your thoughts — did I nail it, or not?