The Influence of Color

How do colors influence marketing?

It is important for us to consider that consumers place visual appearance and color above other factors when shopping. Buying habits are complex but here are some quick percentage points made in a kissmetrics study on the color of psychology.  See the infographic here.

85% of shoppers place color as a primary reason for why they buy a particular product.

Color increases brand recognition by 80%.

52% of consumers are more likely to enter a store when there is a sale sign in the window.

60% of consumers feel at ease and are more likely to buy a product that has the word “guaranteed” associated with it.

42% of shoppers base their opinion of a website on overall design alone.

52% of shoppers did not return to a website because of overall aesthetics.

Infographics – visuals conveying complex concepts

Infographics can help guide us toward better marketing. They neatly combine statistics and design to communicate multiple layers of information.

I have listed here, a few interesting color infographics to help you think about the use of color.

The most powerful colors of the world  – infographic

Colors of the web. Popular web brand colors – infographic

Colors in culture – infographic
Color is one of the most powerful methods of design. But it is culturally specific.

Color preferences by gender – infographic
In the kissmetrics color experiments, men prefer bright colors women prefer soft colors. Men and women both preferred blue.

The psychology of color – infographic
Visual perceptions driven by color can motivate buying behavior.

Celebrate Steve Jobs and his contributions

Life is easier, more fun and all around better because of his vision and drive.

Can you believe it? Steve Jobs has 313 patents under his name covering everything from packaging to user interfaces.

I remember the first Mac I purchased – a Mac IICX in 1989. It was nested in packaging that walked you through the experience of becoming a Mac owner, starting with a box that read, “Open me first”. An incredible user experience from opening the box to starting up and running the MAC OS for the first time. With its rainbow colored Apple logo, it embraced me and has held my heart (and livelihood) ever since. Today, when you purchase a Mac, there are barely any instructions at all. The assumption is that you’ll be able to tear open the box and immediately start playing, which is absolutely the case.

Once features and speed in computers was commoditized so it was no longer important how fast a computer was, the issue of usability and integration came to the forefront as a differentiator. And people finally understood what it’s like to work on a Mac.

As a testament to Apple product intuitiveness and positive user experience, visit the the Apple store and watch 3-year-olds (and 60-year olds) play on iPads. Good human interface and intuitiveness, that’s what we are talking about.

It is absolutely incredible how the iPad and iPhone interact with the Mac desktop. A testament to Jobs visionary talent of being able to look at a product from the eyes of a user.

Apple designers say that their designs have to be presented with a mock-up of how that design might evolve in the second or third generation.

David Pogue so poignantly writes: “Even when Microsoft or Google or Hewlett-Packard tried to mimic Apple’s every move, run its designs through the corporate copying machine, they never succeeded. And that’s because they never had such a single, razor-focused, deeply opinionated, micromanaging, uncompromising, charismatic, persuasive, mind-blowingly visionary leader.”

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for all the wonderful life-enriching experiences you and Apple have opened for all of us – a testament to your legend.

Steve Jobs quotes can be found everywhere right now. But in this moment, this one resonates the most with me.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement address, 1995.

Cotter Visual Synergist

Brand New Life For A Logo

Cigna’s visual brand has been updated – it’s human, it’s happy, it’s green. The new logo depicts how Cigna’s health stewardship allows individuals to blossom and grow.

The letters of “Cigna”, no longer in all caps, are in a more casual Myriad Pro semi-bold font consistent with the current trend towards creating a more people-friendly look. The blue, green and yellow colors also support this. Blue for trust and support, green for growth and yellow for happy.

Cigna CEO David Cordani says “Connecting people to better health is the value we deliver as a global health services company.” (Hartford Courant)

The original “Tree of Life” logo in existence since 1993 was based on an 18th century New England quilt. The new logo puts the “Tree of Life” in the hands of the consumer. The move to a more “human” visual, focused on the healthcare consumer, is a good choice based on the evolution of today’s healthcare. Cigna’s new “Go You” campaign, “You were born an original. Make sure you stay that way,” also speaks to the industry reinventing itself as consumers prepare for the health-overhaul laws that will require most Americans to carry health insurance by 2014. Read more and view the video @BrandChannel.

Beer Brand Visual Identity Evolves

Heineken is not only a great consumer brand but a corporate overseer of more than 250 beer and cider brands. In this age of brand awareness Heineken has opted for brand differentiation. As a brewer, HEINEKEN is a brand. As a brand, Heineken is a world reknowned beer. They have chosen to differentiate the corporate visual identity from the product visual identity.





The re-designed HEINEKEN corporate name appears in all caps with a red star, which they call a spark, purportedly representing the spirit and energy of the company’s more than 70,000 employees worldwide. For me, the spark bares somewhat of a resemblance to the Texaco star.

The visual identity and design of the iconic Heineken beer brand remains unchanged. The Heineken beer typeface used in upper/lower case is more friendly as a consumer brand, like beer, should be. The all caps corporate version is a bit rigid but strong and iconic.

I understand the brand awareness reasoning for this change but it will certainly cause visual brand confusion with two visual variations on the Heineken/HEINEKEN word. At first glance, consumers may jump to various inaccurate conclusions. If HEINEKEN integrates the corporate icon onto the product, it must be done with great finesse and respect for the consumer brand.

Coca-Cola company uses one visual brand for its signature product and its corporate icon and I believe it works. I think the same could apply for Heineken. Stay with one consistent visual brand identity for their signature product and their corporate entity. It makes everything that much more powerful.

In Coca-Cola’s corporate visual identity usage, they add “The” before and “Company” after the iconic brand name. This works. It makes the connection on all levels. It is a strong brand because of many reasons but one of lesser importance, there is no question and no confusion as to who the company is and who the brand is. Coca-Cola has many product brands but there is no doubt, its signature brand is its strongest. And the same can be said for Heineken.

Building an effective QR code campaign

What makes for a good QR code?

The most popular codes are ones that offer access to a discount or coupon or that allow people to learn more about a product or service.

Giveaways, discounts, free tickets, exclusive access all compel people to interact with and scan your code. Where you send them should provide them with a brand experience plus more. Give them something that is just a bit more special.

When used with a powerful call-to-action, compelling campaigns can offer:

Exclusive rich media, videos and photos

Exclusive or time-sensitive access

Free downloads

Special Contests

Special offers, coupons or gifts

“Secret” information

A few things to keep in mind when integrating your QR code:

Strategically locate the code.

People must be able to find the code easily, scan it quickly and the code must be placed somewhere it will not interfere with scanning ability. For instance, you don’t want to place your code over a fold in a print piece. It is best to place where it can have white space around it and should use a minimum of 1 x 1-inch print specification.

Keep it simple.

QR codes have up to a 30% error correction rate, so there’s nice flexibility for creative branding. Be sure not to go overboard. It is more important to create a code that is scanable. Simple black & white format increases the number of phones and code readers that can scan it.

Check your work.

A less than 1-inch scan is sometimes too dense to scan if a longer URL is encoded. By using you can generate a short URL QR code. Allow time for testing.

Make sure your scan goes to a mobile site.

It is best for people to view your offer in a mobile compatible setting. If you would rather not build an alternate site you can try paperlinks. You can create a QR code, a landing page and customize your QR code if desirable.

Finally, as we have said before, put yourself in your customers shoes. If you want to create an effective and successful QR campaign make sure what you offer is worth their while.

Where Customers Take Control of Branding

Put the brand in the hands of the users

SALT and The BMW Guggenheim Lab allow users to lend their own interpretations to their brands within boundaries they set up. At the core of both these organizations is collaboration and participation.

The theory behind this type of “non-logo” encourages community-building, interactivity, mutability and allows users to truly feel and be part of the experience. It’s like social networking for design. Mirroring the organizations they portray, anyone can play a part in the organizations interpretation.

Istanbul’s SALT calls itself a “designing institution”

SALT’s “non-logo” will be remade in a different typeface every four months by rotating designers. The letters form a dispersed “logo” and articulate the idea that SALT itself is a work in progress, with their continually evolving design. This identity is appropriate for SALT as a “designing institution”. They use a controlled system for new typefaces to be developed.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile laboratory

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory traveling around the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban life. It can be experienced in NYC through October 16th. The Lab is a forum for thinking on urban planning so the power is in the hands of its participants. It makes sense that they form and evolve a visual representation through a controlled system.

Certainly this approach is not appropriate for all businesses, but it does work for these two organizations because of who they are, the results of a collaborative process with the user.

Visual brands, as we know them, are meant to gain recognition through repeated use and consistency. The best brands are those that are built to last. They instill everything their organizations are, building familiarity, confidence and trust. These two organizations actually do this but will they build something lasting that can be seen as a representation in all media? Or is it just important that their visual representations continually evolve with their organizations?

These collaborative approaches certainly portray innovative solutions in the realm of branding and provide food for thought.

Visual Tips For Book Cover Design

Effective book cover designs draw the reader in so they want to find out what your book is about. Most people DO judge a book by its cover. So how do you pull people in visually?

Your book cover needs to:

1 Communicate clearly, quickly and efficiently to the reader by organizing the visual elements in harmony with each other

2 Lead the audience to the title

Pay attention to not only typeface, but styling, sizing and positioning. Organize the type and images with a visual hierarchy of importance. Some elements should stand out more than others.

3 Have a relevant visual theme and concept

It is important that your design convey the message and meaning of your book clearly.

4 Use simplicity

Your cover should work well and be attractive very small, as a thumbnail, and large, as in a poster. Detailed illustration is often difficult to differentiate when the book is small. It may be meaningful to you but not to your audience and can very well detract from its marketability. Reduce your cover design to the size of a thumbnail on Amazon and see if you can distinguish visual coherency and it is  readable. If not, simplify.

5 Use a pleasant color palette consistent with your books style and era

Caution is needed when building a color palette. For instance, when using red on black there is little differentiation between the 2 colors which can make certain things become transparent to the eye from a distance. This goes for a light color on light color as well. Be sure there is significant color tonality distinguishability  between your color values.

6 Work visually in black and white as well as color

Note that your cover changes dramatically without color. When used in, for instance, a newspaper ad, make sure it is still a readable and effective design.

7 Use a dramatic visual effect

Run the image and color right off the books boundaries. You will find it gives the illusion of expanding the covers visual space.

8 Create a good focal point to pull the audience into the cover visually

Dramatic perspective, angle, a visual explosion of color or a central area the eye is attracted to can do the trick.

9 Use a font that is easily readable

Some script fonts can be very attractive but, keep in mind, they are often difficult to read. Test them yourself. Use the five foot rule. If you can’t read the text on the spine of your book from 5 feet away….Neither can your readers.

10 Stand out

A helpful exercise for you would be to look at covers on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. Determine which ones are the most eye catching. Why do you think they stand out on a shelf?

The bottomline is, a great book cover CAN help sell your book!

Logo Morphing

PriceWaterhouseCoopers, now PwC, has a morphing logo too. See video here.

Shown below is the static logo – old and new.

Its morphings reveal many visual varieties and adaptations to different types of content. Logos no longer just sit static. Moving media has changed that.

The new branding is now almost a year old. It can be seen in use on the company website and in the static marketing pieces shown below.

They use a warm red color scheme as opposed to traditional accounting logos which are typically in the blue range. Maybe this is to focus on the warmth in working with PwC. The series of colorful boxes could represent “staying in the boxes” and makes a good metaphor for an accounting firm.

PwC wants to be seen as forward-thinking and contemporary, not stodgy as people tend to typify accounting firms (hmmm). As said by Dennis Nally, chairman of PwC, “We think our new brand expression visually distinguishes PwC in the same way that the quality and expertise of our people differentiates the experience of working with PwC. Underlying the visual elements is what the PwC brand really stands for – how we are viewed by our clients, our people and our stakeholders. Beyond our capabilities and experience, we want PwC to be known for building great relationships with clients that help them create the value they’re looking for.”

I am not sure this new look really relates to their vision, or even depicts who PwC really is. Does it really speak their brand? One thing is obvious… this is how they want to be perceived. Conceptually, it is an interesting dichotomy.  The changes in the financial markets mean it’s now as important to look nimble and up-to-date as it is to look solid and dependable.

Logos of the future

Logos based on algorithms are being developed with more frequency. Are these the logos of the future? The following are 3 examples of logos based on algorithms that show out-of-the-box thinking.

Casa da Música logo inspired by buildings architecture

Stefan Sagmeister is a graphic designer who every 7th year takes a one-year sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh his creative outlook. Kudos to him for doing this sucessfully. After coming off his last sabbatical he developed a logo for Casa da Música. The design came out of its building architecture which in itself is art – so it came naturally as the inspiration. They began with a study of the architecture from 6 angles: west, north, south, east, top and bottom.

Using Casa da Música software based on content’s color in an image, the software generator “calculated” the logos colors. They used an image of Beethoven to generate this logo shown below.

Each employee has their own logo. For business cards, the logo’s colors are generated with the software by using the people’s portraits.

MIT Media Lab generates a logo, 40,000 of them!

The new Media Lab logo is based on three intersecting “spotlights,” composed of three colors, straight lines, three black squares, and blending gradients. The algorithm behind it generates a unique logo for each staff member. It illustrates the concept of ongoing originality in the Lab.

Science Channel’s morphing logo

The new Science Channel logo uses a morphing logo they actually call Morph. It seems to be imitating natures way of visually adapting to its surroundings. According to the designers, Morph “represents the future of logo design”.

Yes. This is a time of transition. These are the logos of today. Today is the future. And it is certainly valid for these appropriate industrys to use a moving form of media as their visual identity’s setting since they are rarely viewed in static media. The premise works if we are moving towards everything being in motion. And we are. There is no “one size fits all”. Logos are developed based on the concept and brand that drive the company. And this fluidity is part of that. Designers clearly see the differentiation of when a “morphing target” is appropriate – when it is driven by the company and its vision.

Visual Hierarchy

To be an effective designer, we have to be able to clearly communicate selected ideas to viewers or we lose their attention.

People see designs in terms of relationships. Seeing similarities and differences or just “seeing” is how we organize our world. Our brains synthesize information by grouping similar visual elements and organizing them into meaningful patterns. Information that is organized with a hierarchy in mind will always be more effective at communicating than information that is not organized.

Visual hierarchy applied to text.

In the above sample illustration, the information in both text blocks is the same. The key to visual hierarchy is how we change the way the reader takes the information in. By applying subheads and pull-out quotes, more visual prominence is given to one element over another, thus making it easier to scan because it is hierarchically organized.


Size easily draws attention because the eye is drawn to the most prominent item on a page. But remember, size must also correlate to importance.


Organizing information based on color can guide the viewer. Color can also be used to convey emotional intensity. Some colors are more soothing than others so used appropriately, color can help evoke emotion.

The wheel of emotion shown above was invented by Robert Plutchik to define a model of human emotions and their relations and combinations. It consists of 8 basic emotions, opposed in pairs, and multiple shades. It is an interesting guide to the power of color and its emotional impact although I would not adhere to it rigidly. Color theories abound.

Grid alignment and white space

Grids create order between elements which helps readability. White space has a functional purpose. It helps guide viewers when used skillfully. Read more on… Visually leading with intent.