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Starting a business

Building your brand: how to choose fonts and colours for your business

Here’s how important visual identity is for your business: When someone mentions golden arches, can you name the brand? What about a white kangaroo in a red triangle? We’re guessing you can.

There’s a lot to sort out when you’re starting a business. One of the most important tasks is deciding on your brand and visual identity—this includes identifying the fonts and colours you’ll use.

You want them to set your business apart from your competition. You want them to be memorable, and you also want them to capture the essence of your business.

OK, yes. That’s a lot of pressure. But don’t panic yet!

Let’s dig into what your font and colour selections say about your business and how you can settle on the right ones.

Do your font and colour choices really matter?

In short? Yes. For starters, your font and colours are core elements of your brand. That means you’ll use them in a lot of different places, including your logo, website, business cards and letterhead, social media graphics, and promotional materials.

While these details might seem inconsequential, they play an important role in how people perceive your entire business. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of psychology behind colours and fonts.

Get this: people make up their minds about products within 90 seconds, with 62–90% of their assessment based on colours alone. Colours also have staying power—you probably instantly recognise the bold colours of the Google logo or the Woolworths logo’s bright greens.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung is considered the pioneer of colour psychology. He believed that colours carried specific meanings, and he identified six fundamental colour principles:

  1. Colour carries meaning.
  2. Colour meaning is based on either a learned meaning or something more innate.
  3. The perception of a colour incites automatic evaluation by the person perceiving it.
  4. The evaluation leads to colour-motivated behavior.
  5. Colour usually exerts its influence automatically.
  6. Context also plays a role in colour meaning and effect.

Modern interpretations of Jung’s theories attach emotions to specific colours. For example, red indicates excitement, energy and passion, while green captures nature, healing and freshness.

To put it simply, colour influences our thoughts—and this often happens subconsciously. Need proof? Fast food chains use colour to make you feel hungry. This is why McDonald’s, Hungry Jack’s and Oporto (to name a few) use red and yellow.

Of course, it’s not a perfect science—green can also represent envy, for example. But it’s worth remembering that the colours you choose will elicit certain emotions and perceptions whether people are consciously aware of it or not.

What your font choices say about your business

Psychology plays into fonts as well. Compare the playful font of Instagram with the authoritative font of J.P. Morgan, for example. Each sends a different message about the business behind the font.

There’s no handbook to explain what each font represents—it’s more of a gut feeling than anything. However, the design platform Canva provides a helpful breakdown of each of the main categories of fonts and the emotions they elicit:

  • Serif fonts: trust, respect, authority and formality
  • Sans-serif fonts: straightforward, modern, trust, sophisticated, tech-focused, cutting-edge
  • Examples: Google, Facebook, Spotify
  • Script fonts: elegant, sophisticated, fancy, creative, happy, traditional, personal, whimsical
  • Examples: Coca-Cola, Disney, Cadbury

There are seemingly endless fonts to choose from, but the majority will fall into one of those three categories. This breakdown provides a good starting point for determining which type of font accurately captures the reputation and personality you want for your business.

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Where to browse fonts and colours

You get it now—your font and colour choices carry a lot of weight. But when it comes to landing on the right ones for your business, you want to make sure you explore all your options.

Wondering where to start? Here are a few helpful resources for perusing different colours and fonts:

When you find a colour you like, make note of it. Keep in mind that there are too many colours (and shades, hues, tints and temperatures) out there for each one to have a simple name. Instead, colours are defined in terms of colour systems or codes. The most common colour systems include:

  • CMYK: this stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This system generates colours based on combined values for each of the four colours.
  • RGB: this stands for red, green and blue. Similar to CMYK, this system combines values for each of the three colours to generate the colour you want.
  • HEX: this is a six-digit combination of letters and colours to represent specific colours.

These colour systems might feel a little technical. The main thing to remember is to note the code for the colour you like so you can easily find and use it later.

Naming conventions for fonts are a little more straightforward than colours because most have unique names. Note the names of fonts that you like and whether you like any special characteristics applied to the font, such as bold or italic.

Once you’ve chosen your colours and fonts, it’s time to whip up a simple logo or other marketing materials. The following tools can help you do it yourself or find a reasonably-priced professional with design skills to do it for you:

How to choose the right fonts and colours for your business

When you’re just getting your business off the ground, you’re probably trying your best to economise. You might not have the resources to enlist a designer’s help.

That’s OK! While a professional can help you shape the direction of your overall brand, you don’t necessarily need one right away. Refer to the options listed above, then follow these tips to narrow down your choices and land on the one that’s right for your brand new business.

1. Consider the brand

Remember that these visual elements are just a piece of your business’ brand, and they need to work cohesively with your brand’s overall personality. Your fonts and colours shouldn’t be the first decision you make. Instead, they should be something you choose after you have a better grip on your overarching brand identity.

Struggling to get started? It doesn’t need to be complicated. Grab a notepad and jot down some adjectives you’d like people to use to describe your business.

Do you want them to think of you as trusted, respected and knowledgeable? Or maybe approachable, colourful and quirky? What about groundbreaking, sleek and modern?

Your imagination is the only limitation here. Jot down the terms that you want to fit your business, and they will help guide your decisions.

2. Collect inspiration

It can be helpful to look at some examples to understand what you like and don’t like.

Take a look at what other businesses are doing. These could be businesses in your industry or any type of brand that appeals to you. Collect your inspiration in one centralised spot. Once you have several different options, step back and look for common threads. Do those brands share any attributes?

This is a straightforward exercise to help you uncover fonts and colours that stand out to you. Maybe you’ll discover that you lean toward blue and a clean, crisp font, or you might notice that you prefer bold red and a classic font.

Now, when you sort through all those fonts and colours, you have a little bit of direction about what you should be looking for.

3. Keep it simple

The Nike swoosh, the Amazon font, that super-specific Spotify green—all proof that sometimes less is more.

In other words, don’t feel like you need to get complicated or elaborate with your fonts, colours or branding when you’re just getting started. Stick with the basics—two or three colours and a single font.

If you think this will make your business and brand seem amateurish, think again. Simple brands are often the best brands. In fact, one study found that 61% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand because it’s simple. Think of how many people are Apple devotees, for example.

When it comes to your business, looks matter

There’s no shortage of font and colour options for your business branding. The huge array of choices can feel overwhelming—particularly when the decisions you make have a significant impact on how your business is perceived and your customers’ loyalty.

It’s a big decision, but rest assured that nothing is permanent. Plenty of businesses and brands have refreshed their visual identities. You probably want to land on something that fits your business right now. Take comfort in the fact that you can always make changes as your business grows and you find what suits your business best.

Use this as your guide in the meantime. You’ll land on the fonts and colours that adequately capture your business—and hopefully help you land your first customers.

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