Colour my world - elements and principles of design

Like any business, after a while you instinctively know if something ‘works.’ In our line of work, that something is a creative.  Suffice to say, a significant amount of due diligence has been conducted to ensure the campaign is sharp, engaged, benefit-driven, and above all, strategically sound.


I’m sure we’d all agree that the challenge is that the perception of art has never been black and white. In an eternal world of ‘grey’ it’s traditionally been very difficult to articulate the ‘why’ of the creative as it relates to its aesthetics.


This articulation is absolutely vital. As marketers, we must understand creative theories and importantly, be able to communicate why elements both meet a campaign’s objectives and how it makes sense from a graphic perspective. This can be brought back to the elements and principles of design, which often crosses over directly from interior design. I’ve always seen the distinct parallel between a room and an advertisement, or any ‘canvas’ that is being viewed. At the end of the day, it’s all a visual demonstration and interpretation of an objective in a defined space.


Due to the complexity involved, I’ll only touch on an element or principle briefly. By understanding both elements and principles of design, you gain a greater appreciation of why the creative works (or doesn’t work) – and importantly, how to ‘fix’ it to aesthetically hit the mark:



Colour plays a massive role in how a design is perceived. It affects its tone, mood and impact. For me, it’s the most immediately polarising part of the design process. If you start with a colour that is ‘off’ from either a personal aesthetic or brand perspective, you’ve lost before you’ve even started.


Our advice for colour is this: understand your market. This means understand your internal and external stakeholders. What are their values? Are they traditional or progressive? What is the dominant psychographic/ demographic profile? To go to extremes to illustrate the point, there’s no use using a bright pink base for a campaign to launch a new product to a conservative, financial services market (unless of course, you’re deliberately being provocative as part of your strategy). This can become difficult, if per say, bright pink is in the brand guidelines – again, just to illustrate the point. The challenge therefore becomes how to be true to the guidelines whilst still resonate with the market (i.e. not polarising them from the outset). The answer to this is a complementary colour palette. A bright pink can be offset with a myriad of more traditional hues that allow the logo or brandmark to be an accent without dominating the campaign. By way of example, deep pewters through to silvers, and navy blues are all good complementary colours for a bright pink. By developing an advertisement, for instance, that has a base of complementary colours can resonate with the market without detracting from the corporate brand identity.


The same can also be said in reverse. A company may be positioning themselves as progressive, but use a typical industry-specific, expected colour (think navy). This can be immediately lifted with more vibrant shades of blue, morphing into vivid tones of limes through to aquas, teals and emeralds. Again, a consistent balance can be achieved that uses colour to connect with an audience without being destructive to the company’s brand, and conversely, build brand equity through the balance of colour.


So: embrace colour, but make sure it’s done strategically and you can quantify the choice either way.


Sascha Moore


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