How do you bring color selection out of the realm of subjective client preferences and into the concrete, strategic arena?

02.15.2010 / Question submitted by: Hexanine

Author: Hexanine 6 replies. Share yours.

Creative Process Discussion


Colour is often a tricky element in identity development and there are many ways of managing it. In my experience choosing the right approach depends on your client, the number of people involved in the process, the nature of the project and your relationship with your client. When embarking on a new project I explain our process and broach the topic of approvals and feedback. If any phase of development is measured based on specific goals then gauging colour appropriateness should be no different.

One way we have found which helps pave the way for colour choices is the use of a moodboard before any creative work is done. If the moodboard feels right to the client, as a combination of colours, visual and typographic elements, then we know weโ€™re headed in the right direction and once the concept (presented in black and white) is approved, subsequent colour explorations are much easier to handle.

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  1. Paul Haft

    I love your question and I’ve been asking other designers and agencies the same question over the last year as part of a book I’m writing on the subject. Over the last 10 years, I’ve developed a colour strategy and application methodology for brand identities. Basically, it involves 4 steps, each critical to ensuring successful by-in from all decision maker levels. Once the colour conversation is taken away from decorative into strategic with solid, evidence based knowledge the rational for colour selection is rarely debated or challenged. Not only is it important to do a competitive colour mapping process, it’s equally important to understand related research that may apply to your decision for selecting colour. If you’re interesting in chatting more about colour, email me

  2. Tim Lapetino

    Well, to answer our own question, we’ve found that often clients like to wrap their color choices around their personal preferences. We don’t confront clients, telling them their tastes aren’t good–just that they’re not as important to the project. Yes, we want them to be happy with the final mark, but we re-frame the issue to focus on the audience. Will this color scheme speak to the audience? Will it help you stand out from the competition? Does it reflect your brand accurately with emotional color associations. Like Paul Haft mentions about, it’s about going back to the strategy–and few good clients would want to argue with that.

  3. Steve Zelle

    We often talk about the personal preferences of the client but I find as a designer my preferences can cloud judgement as well. Having a strategy to refer to and confirm the appropriateness of every decision is key.

    Paul โ€” I would love to see you write an article for Processed Identity giving more insight into your methodology and book.

  4. Tim Lapetino

    Yes, Paul. I’d love to get more info on your color methodology too–please enlighten the community, if you wouldn’t mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Paul Haft

    Thanks for the additional comments and interest, my new website will be up in a few weeks, and the content focuses specifically on colour and branding. It will provide high level thoughts on the methodology. I’d also be interested if anyone would like to help test my methodology against their current process, I’m looking for some specific examples for the book to provide additional measurement of the value. Please let me know. Regards, Paul

How do you bring color selection out of the realm of subjective client preferences and into the concrete, strategic arena?