When you are creating your brand marketing, your colour choices should support both your brand and your message. Consistent use of your brand colour or colours will help you build your brand into a valuable intangible asset. In your brand marketing messages, it’s important to consider how your colours might skew or support your message. If the colours used are fighting against your message, then you are making it harder to communicate with your brand’s audience.
Colour Choice in the New TTC Subway Map
The new Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway car map is a great example of bad colour choice. To understand why this is, it’s necessary to look at the map’s colour scheme in the context of the new TTC subway cars. The sleek new cars are designed to provide more passenger space than the older ones. As part of their modern look, the new TTC subway cars display the revamped map, which is illuminated by flashing, coloured lights meant to indicate the line you are on, the next stop, and transfer points between lines. Unfortunately, the map uses (i) red lights to show the TTC stops that a train is going to and (ii) green lights to signify TTC stops already passed. This colour choice goes against basic user experience.
- Basic intuition (and colour convention) dictates that a green light means go and a red light means stop.
- Red-green colour blindness means that colour blind people may not be able to tell the difference between certain red and green hues. Estimates are that about 7 to 10% of the male population suffers from red-green colour blindness. The prevalence of red-green colour blindness in women is under 1%.
Brand Marketing with the Red-Green Colour Scheme
If a red and green colour scheme is proposed for your brand message, there are four key questions that you should ask your team.
1. Does the use of red and green follow our basic intuition that red means stop and green means go?
2. Does the layout and design allow your message to be readily understood by those incapable of distinguishing the colours? The design implications can be complex since the materials, colour mass and hues work together to impact how the colours are perceived by colour blind individuals. A simple approach to this question is to consider whether the message could be readily understood if the reds and greens were shades of grey.
3. Would another colour scheme better communicate your message or, at a minimum, not fight against your brand message?
4. Is there a good reason to break the colour rules? Will it help your message stand out? Or are you just making it harder for your brand’s audience?