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Judging a book by its colour: How colour psychology can help you build a successful brand

Karen Haller has over 20 years of experience studying and working with colour. Karen is regularly asked to comment on colour stories in local and national magazines, newspapers, radio and TV. She is a contributing author of the leading industry book Colour Design: Theories and Applications on Colour in Interiors. She is currently writing her first book. 

Visual trends in publishing tend to come from outside of the industry and the blurring of boundaries in our online and offline lives has been a powerful influence on the designs we are seeing.

But in the rush to reflect these new aesthetic styles, are we forgetting some fundamental aspects of the best in design?

Up to 85% of purchasing decisions are based on colour alone (KISSmetrics). This fundamental design element is a powerful way for brands (authors, publishers) to emotionally connect with consumers (readers, retailers, influencers).

At the recent BookMachine Unplugged: Talking Design I challenged the audience to make colour an integral part of strategic planning, not just an aesthetically pleasing afterthought.

Here’s how.

Whenever we buy anything, it is because of an emotional reason. Afterwards, we explain our choices to ourselves on the basis of performance, or price. We like to think of ourselves as logical beings. But really, we buy because of an emotional want or need.

Brands know this. They know they need to emotionally engage, emotionally connect with their customers. But what they may all not know is that it’s colour that creates this all important initial emotional connection.

This is because we take in and connect to colour before anything else – before words, shapes, design. A lot of the money spent on getting the copy just right and the book cover beautifully designed is likely to be wasted if the colours are communicating something completely different.

Yes colour sells, but the right colours sell better. Using the power of applied colour psychology is by far the most effective way to influence positive buying behaviours. It’s your secret sales force.

Yes, you could just go for the brightest, boldest colour. Your book will definitely stand out and get noticed. But what if everyone else is using the same tactic, then all you’re likely to be doing is the colour equivalent of ‘shouting really loudly’.

Here’s another approach to consider.

Using colour to create a positive emotional connection

Here’s a simple framework for you to use to help you get started.

  1. Convey a genre
    This way the potential reader understands this is a thriller, a fantasy novel, a cookbook, a children’s book etc. very quickly.
  2. Convey the title and/or author name quickly
    You want the text to be clear and unambiguous. If it’s a megastar author, the author name will be bigger than the title. For a normal/debut author, the name will be smaller than the title in most cases.
  3. Convey the experience/mood
    It may be misty and mysterious for a fantasy novel; bright and cheerful for a children’s book about farm animals; serious and graphical but not boring for a textbook; luscious and appetising for a cookbook.

Now that you’re clear on the book’s messaging gathered from steps 1-3, it’s time to look at the colours.

  1. Select the colour & design style

Here is where you will want to select the font styles, image/s and colours to convey the book’s message.

Take romance novels for example. When we think of a romance novel by Barbara Cartland, the font type, imagery and colours are very different to those used for 50 Shades of Grey.

  1. Select colours that harmonise
    This isn’t colour harmony from the colour wheel. This is where the colours have a visual harmonious relationship with each other to create that all important positive emotive connection.

Thinking of young children’s books, the colours we typically see are bright, clear hues that have a warm yellow base, including colours such as sunshine yellow, sky blue and lilac etc. This group of colours speaks to children. Swap these out for greyed out hues such as lavender, dusty pink, powder blue etc and children are likely to dismiss it.

We never see colour in isolation so whilst these are separate elements they need to create a unified look & feel through colour to attract and emotionally engage the potential reader quickly.

Tip: Take into consideration a colour’s chromatic intensity. For example: a soothing pale pink conveys a very different message to an intense, bold magenta.

Tip: Take into consideration proportion and placement.

What you are wanting to avoid is a jarring colour scheme that bears little or no relationship to what the product, brand, book is about – this is how you repel your ideal customer, in an instant.

What you are aiming for is to match the emotional message the colours (in combination with the design style and shapes) are sending on a subconscious level with the message the title, the strapline and the back-cover copy are sending on a conscious level. When these are in alignment your ideal customer instinctively connects. The selling is done.

Free Resource

If you would like to read more, here’s a free resource for you:

10 Myths that Limit You Using Colour Effectively” I begin to show you how you can start to work with colour differently.

In this e-book you will learn:

  • Some of the science behind the colour choices which you’re currently navigating through with intuition
  • How to create consistent, predictable, repeatable results
  • What lies behind your client’s fear of colour, so you can help them resolve it and be excited about the process.

Download your e-book here: http://www.colour-training.com/free_colour_book.html

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