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How to choose the right font and colours for your brand
8 min read
Here’s how important visual identity is for your business: when someone mentions golden arches, can you name the brand? What about a red bullseye? 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 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, 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.
What colours mean in branding
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 Spotify logo’s bright green.
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:
Colour carries meaning.
Colour meaning is based on either a learned meaning or something more innate.
The perception of a colour incites automatic evaluation by the person perceiving.
The evaluation leads to colour-motivated behaviour.
Colour usually exerts its influence automatically.
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 brands use colour to make you feel hungry. This is why McDonald’s, Burger King, Lay’s and Pizza Hut (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 provoke certain emotions and perceptions, whether people are consciously aware of it or not.
What fonts say about your brand
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 else. However, the design platform Canva provides a helpful breakdown of each of the main categories of fonts and the emotions they provoke:
Serif fonts: trust, respect, authority and formality (e.g. Rolex or Forbes)
Script fonts: elegant, sophisticated, fancy, creative, happy, traditional, personal, whimsical (e.g. Coca Cola or Disney)
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.
Picking a font for your brand
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 browsing different fonts:
Naming conventions for fonts are fairly straightforward, because most have unique names. Note down the names of fonts that you like and whether you like any special characteristics applied to them, such as bold or italic. Browser extensions like WhatFont, FontFinder and Fontanello can help you to easily identify the fonts used on different web pages.
Finding your brand colour palette
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 ones 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 one 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 ones you like so you can easily find and use them later. Browser extensions like Eye Dropper, Colorpick Eyedropper and ColorZilla can help you select colour values from web pages and other on-screen elements.
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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 chops to do it for you:
When you’re just getting your business off the ground, you’re probably trying your best to be scrappy. 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, visual elements are just a piece of your business’s 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 and have chosen your brand name.
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 towards blue and a clean, crisp font, or you might notice that you prefer bold red and a classic font.
The examples that you’ve found can give you 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—they're 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.
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.
Did you get off to a good start deciding on the basics of your branding? The QuickBooks blog is full of marketing tips for small businesses. Get more inspiration for building your new business today!