Monday, May 11, 2009

People of Color.

"Is the website color I see on my screen what it will really look like? Will it match our letterhead? Will it look the same when we print on our printer." These are typical client questions that come up over and over as we work through corporate identity programs. The answer to all of them is: "it depends." Chances are, the biggest exposure to your brand will be online. That means the screen is the new standard. Simple. Except that everyone isn't looking at the same the same screen.

Once upon a time (just a few years ago), printing set the standard for color. Designers focused on selecting colors, picking ink swatches and seeing the work through production (making sure the colors are specified correctly and printed accurately, ect). They still do that. The big difference now is that most work is viewed on screen and never printed. And when it is printed, it's likely to be on an office laser or desk top printer.

Combine the fact that every monitor and every printer are calibrated differently (if at all) with multiple print technologies and you have an identity nightmare. We know color critical to an identity, and branding, so what's the solution? There easy is: "it depends." Imagine that a company uses orange and blue for its identity. Just pick two ink colors and be done with it right? Not so easy. Suppose the orange is so bright that simulating it in four color process ink (or color laser toner), makes it appear muted and dull? Suppose the orange appears washed out on screen? This is where a good design input is like gold. The best approach may be to create custom color formulas, one for printing in process color on coated paper and possibly another for printing on uncoated paper (which cuts down on brightness)...and another for on screen viewing for PCs and PDAs. It's all balancing act -- the color needs to be adjusted, but it also needs to look like the brand.

It's important is for brand stewards (marketing, PR and communications people) to pay close attention to color -- and be involved in the details and decisions as adjustments are made. This requires input from their audiences, designers, technical people and vendors. The best legacy can be left by establishing and documenting graphic standards that will live on as people come and go.

Copyright 2009, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.