“You don’t look like you’re from here.” I looked up at the young man asking me the question, then looked down at my outfit.
His eyes had fallen to the autumn leave orange colored scarf wrapped thick around my neck and trailing underneath my jean jacket. Yea, I guess he was right. I had moved to Boston from Sacramento, CA and while people are people wherever you go, fashion changes from region to region.
The color of Boston was black. Most people wore black, especially as the weather turned cold and the skies went gray. I felt a bit out of place with all of my colors and, for a season, I decided to switch to wearing black all the time in an effort to fit in.
Now, I look back at those pictures of myself and shake my head a bit. Wearing black seemed to drain me of myself, even making me look smaller, in size a bit, but mostly in personality. I get lost in pictures with other people.
I chose the city picture for the title image this week because of the strong city sense it conveys by the many people dressed in black. Often, when I think of lots of people dressed in black business suits en mass, I think of city life in New York, Boston or the finance area of San Francisco. What about you?
Angela Wright, in her classic book, Introduction to Color Psychology, states that only a winter-linked personality can wear black and look amazing. For the rest of us, black wears us down, literally drains us of energy and makes it harder for us to be ourselves.
The same can be said for black and business.
The Emotions Conveyed by Black
Black conveys a sense of dominance, elegance, sophistication, strong leadership, a trend setter, perhaps even intimidation. People wearing black business suits convey authority, the desire to be taken seriously and respected. Black may symbolize expensive and luxe.
Black is difficult to harmonize other colors with, especially the colors in the summer, spring and autumn archetypes. Black is considered a cold colors in color psychology, only found in the winter archetype, and match well with other cools such as mint green, neon pink, bright red.
Black in Your Business Personality
A certain amount of black will be used by all businesses, mostly in the fonts and words of our websites, marketing copy and so forth.
Logos are also often in black. I do encourage people to rethink this as they begin to rebrand or start their business, but as a business starts out, it’s often to default to a black logo. Don’t worry about this in the beginning stages of your business.
In the beginning, we all have to start. It’s more important to get the business up, the website up and go out and begin to serve customers than have everything picture perfect. Even though I work in the area of branding and marketing, I don’t encourage an expensive logo at the beginning. The money normally needs to go to other things. However, as money begins to come in and we can spend a bit longer looking at what would make our brand come alive and connect more strongly with our customers, a logo is a powerful way share our values and create brand recognition.
So, give yourself some grace if you’re in the beginning years of business! Developing our business personality takes time and is a continual process.
If you’re in more advanced stages of your business, consider the colors that will reflect the personality of what your business stands for. If you’ve already identified your business as primarily in a spring, summer, or autumn archetype, use a grounding color in those palettes.
For help with finding the best grounding color for your palette, download this week’s free printable. It identifies the best base/grounding colors for each seasonal archetype.
Black in Business Images
Only those businesses who accentuate the winter-linked personality should use black as a primary color in their design, images, etc.
Black absorbs all the light, removing light from the source. This means that black pulls everything in and covers it up. We hide in it. As a result, we feel smaller and not our best selves unless you are a winter-linked personality. In that case, black and white look fantastic on you. These colors increase your energy and confidence.
White is the opposite, it reflects all the colors. Black absorbs all the colors. Both extremes make it difficult to use in excess in a business.
(Note: there is a difference between a lot of light and space in pictures and using the color white.)
Examples of how black is used well in business is seen in trend setters and industry leaders such as Chanel, White House Black Market, Lancôme, etc. The use of black gives a sophisticated, luxe and powerful sort of signal. Below are a few shots of some Lancôme products. You can see how they use the (cool) mint green and (cool) icy blue to complement the winter-luxe-elegant-trend setting look.
Look around: As you flip through magazines or go to different stores (malls are especially good for this), look at how black is used in décor. Do stores focusing primarily on black seem to have the feeling of authority, trend setting, dominance, luxe?
But I Must Use Black!
Black is typically a necessary color to be used in fonts on our website. But unless you’re a winter, stop and consider whether a lot of black in your business: whether it’s pictures, logos or other graphics, is the best way to communicate with your customers. We may not have a choice with our fonts, but there is a choice with pictures, the color of the log, etc.
What feeling are you trying to convey with black? What kind of emotional connection do you want to make with your customers?
Colors to Use in Your Business Beside Black: we need at least one foundational color. I call it the “grounding” color, the color that keeps everything solid and adds depth and contrast to the bright, more color-full colors. If you’d like to have a printable list for those foundation colors in the seasonal archetypes, sign up below.