Tailor Asks…Leslie Harrington

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January 28, 2016
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Design 101: Color Theory
February 25, 2016
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Tailor Asks…Leslie Harrington

Using Color in Design & Branding

Color plays a dramatic role in our day-to-day lives, oftentimes in ways we do not fully comprehend. Going beyond simply what colors each person is drawn to, science has been devoted to determining how humans see color and how to affects the way they interact with it (consider the famed blue/black, white/gold dress debate of last year).

With so many color considerations, how can you even begin? We brought in an expert to help us talk color and how it affects your branding.

Leslie Harrington is well known within the color strategy and color marketing world as the founder and director of LH Color, cofounder of HueGroup, and the Executive Director of The Color Association.

In each of these roles, Leslie has a profound impact on the way that products and brands use color to help improve their business. She spoke with Tailor Brands about how color and branding intersect, and how those with small businesses can begin thinking about how color affects their branding.

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Five Color and Branding Questions with Leslie Harrington

Tailor: For someone starting a small business, the color of their logo or brand may not be the first thing they focus on. Why should or shouldn’t someone think about what color says about their business?

Harrington: Color is the first sense that gets activated upon experiencing the brand. While some may argue that shape is first, maybe it doesn’t matter if color is the first or the second sense – it still matters big time.

For one, color is a non-verbal language that transcends race, culture, and more. It has strong associations, linked to emotions and attributes. Choosing the wrong color may send a message that is in opposition to the message that you mean to for your brand. Importantly, your color choice can create differentiation in your competitive landscape – or link you too closely to competitors.

Tailor: What are some go-to colors that people tend to gravitate towards when starting a business or brand? When is using these colors a good idea? When should they be avoided?

Harrington: Selecting colors should not be a gut decision, and not a “gravitate” towards situation. Selecting color for your brand is a very strategic decision and doing nothing (i.e. default to black and white) makes you look lazy unless others can tell that it was a choice.

Tailor: What has been your most unexpected interaction with color? Is there a product you’ve developed or a color scheme you’ve come up with that has been received completely different than you expected? Why do you think this happened?

Harrington: While I don’t have a specific answer for this, an example would be the Apple C-line [note: C-line refers to the iPhone 5C, a product that differed from the iconic white, black, and rose gold options and instead offered blue, green, pink, and yellow]. The colors were perceived as “cheap” not “color” and really did not help the brand/product be successful considering Apple’s other offerings and what users expected from the company.

Tailor: How do trends influence business branding in regards to color schemes and how much stock do you think a business should place in these trends?

Harrington: I think it depends on the brand. Trends are no more than an indicator of what people are gravitating towards, most often more important in products than brands. We do see brands that do not commit to one color, but “data” many – much easier today as technology has made full color printing so affordable. I would be aware of trends, but the decision should be based on what colors support the brand’s voice – what do you stand for?

Tailor: What are some of the top things any business owner should take into consideration when choosing their brand’s color scheme? Simply liking a color is not enough to form a brand over- what do you see being successful for the longevity of a brand?


  • Know what is your message – brand attributes.
  • Know what colors align with this message.
  • Know what your competition looks like.
  • Know how much you want to align or not align with the market (benefits to both).
  • Agree on how you make the final decision before you start selecting a color, especially if more than one person is involved in the decision.
  • Think application . Color heavy, color accent, secondly colors, the list can go on.
  • Be consistent when you select a color. Set standards and follow them…always!
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Choosing the right color for your brand is a crucial decision. Color strategy can be taken into account to determine how your business is affected by the color of your brand and products, and how this influences consumer behavior. If you’re just starting out, take some time to follow the steps outlined above to break down your color choices as it relates to your business. As you grow and expand, don’t forget the role that color plays in your design choices!