How to Deliver Your Message through Color and Design: A Marketer’s Guide

Design tips color style visual content

Color and design style can communicate more than you realize about your brand and your message. At the beginning of any project, it’s essential to take the time to consider how each can help you achieve your goal and appeal to your target audience. While it’s hard to decide how much to stray from your brand guidelines, this kind of assessment can help — and if you can’t stray at all, it will help you determine which colors and styles to forefront in the finished product. Let’s take a dive into how color and style choices can target audiences, boost engagement, and increase conversions.

Color

The colors that people see influence as much as 90% of their judgment about your content; what’s more, 85% of people base buying decisions on color. Here are some key factors in deciding what color palette is right for your content.

Colorful Engagement

First and foremost, all your visual content should be legible. While that seems to go without saying, more brands than you might expect opt for low-contrast colors that are hard to distinguish. On the other hand, designer Ashton Hauff warns, “If everything is high contrast, nothing stands out and it’s tiring on the eye after a while.” Likewise, be cautious about using colors that strain the eyes, like bright magentas and greens.

You’ll also want to opt for colors that are friendly to those who are color blind. While occurrence of color blindness can vary depending on ethnic origin, the National Eye Institute reports that 8% of men and 0.5% of women of Northern European ancestry have red-green color blindness. So keep your audience in mind: if you’re particularly targeting men, steer away from combining red and green, and opt for high contrast and more than one color as the source of your information. Infographics and data visualizations are particularly effective for those with color blindness.

Color and Emotions

Colors can have emotional and associational connotations that will immediately deliver a certain mood or message to your audiences. While these vary from culture to culture, it’s worthwhile to keep in mind just a few of the emotions they may communicate to Western audiences:

Insert visualization of colors along a spectrum with connotations/emotions connected to them. The first is positive and the second is negative, if you want to put an icon with that. Here are the emotional associations for each color, in the order of how they appear on the spectrum from left to right (black and white don’t appear on the spectrum so you can set them apart):

color-word-associations

Design Style

Consider how the style you choose will work across different assets or an entire campaign. Is it something that you’d be comfortable using not only in a single infographic, but on your home page? If so, then you’ve found a style that really encapsulates your brand’s identity.

Know Your Brand

Do you want your brand to look fun and cheerful or trustworthy and knowledgeable? Your choice of design style goes a long way in showing who you are — and with today’s audiences, showing goes a lot further than telling. When it comes to brand identity, there are countless possibilities and variations.

Looking approachable and fun-loving can boost engagement, especially on social media platforms. To achieve this, opt for more playful illustrations with highly stylized characters, as in this infographic about Star Trek. (You may be very serious about Star Trek, but that doesn’t mean your visual content should be.) This example also presents a relatively flat style, which, with a more minimalist take as in these designs for the National Endowment for the Arts, can come across as both contemporary and inclusive.

For more professional contexts in which you’re hoping to project trustworthiness, line art can communicate strength and decisiveness. An isometric style with a three-dimensional component can be used to communicate complicated ideas or structures, as in this visual campaign for Oerlikon Textiles. Live-action with animation overlay is great for those brands wanting to put a human face on their product, and minimalist or geometric designs can be used to simplify complex ideas — check out this motion graphic about the deep web for an example:

Know Your Goal

Setting a single goal for your piece of content will help you make decisions about what type of design style will work best. There are 3 categories of motion graphic that can help guide your goal-setting for any piece of visual content you’re creating: explainer, promotional, and emotive.

“Explainer” motion graphics or pieces of visual content aim to clarify often-difficult concepts or unfamiliar products or services. Abstract art paired with a great voiceover can communicate such complicated ideas in elegant ways; check out our post, “The Art of the Abstract,” to learn more about this. “Promotional” content might consist of live action or full animation for those products that don’t lend themselves to photography/live action, like this motion graphic for Streamline Water:

Finally, “emotive” graphics aim to tell a story rather than communicate data, so more illustration — for instance, telling the story of a hypothetical character — or live action mixed with animation is usually the best approach.

In the end, always include only the elements you need to achieve this goal. As one of our designers writes, “every unnecessary thing you add is one more thing that stands between your audience and your message.”

Know Your Audience

Target audience determines what format is best for your piece of content, since each piece of content should be optimized to the platform where it appears. However, audience can also guide your decisions in terms of design style.

When talking to Generation Z, opt for the playful and stylized. For millennials, incorporate vintage, retro, and nostalgic elements from their childhood and early teen years, which play particularly well with this demographic. This generation is also drawn to an organic, natural look and feel. Baby boomers, meanwhile, like familiar formats (such as the 30-second video spot modeled after TV commercials) and classic styles. Since this generation tends to consist of higher-level decision-makers in their companies, more professional or corporate styles will appeal.

Consider demographic elements other than age, too. Wealthier audiences, for instance, might be drawn to brands that communicate luxury by employing gold, black, and bronze alongside a minimalist style and old-style or simple, modern fonts.

 

Taking a few hours to find the perfect color palette and design style for your next piece of visual content may be all you need to reinvigorate your brand and inspire more conversions. So invest that time — it’ll pay dividends.

Erin McCoy

Author Erin McCoy

Erin McCoy is director of content marketing and public relations at Killer Infographics. She earned her BA in Spanish with minors in French and Russian, and holds 2 master’s degrees from the University of Washington: an MFA in creative writing and an MA in Spanish literature. She has won nearly 2 dozen awards in photojournalism, and has dedicated those skills to boosting Killer’s brand recognition and thought leadership in visual communication. Since Erin took on her marketing/PR role, Killer has been named a member of the Inc. 5000 for 4 years in a row; has been featured in such publications as Inc., Forbes, Mashable, and the Huffington Post; and has been invited to present at such conferences as SXSW and SMX Advanced.

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