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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

"M" is for: Monochromatic (One is the Loveliest Color)

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It was September of 1965 when the color television revolution changed the world. Programming previously watched in shades of gray was now bursting in full color for all to see! It’s understandable that we are drawn to color; we equate it with life and vibrancy. So when I tell you that monochromatic has merits, don’t tune me out just yet!

What Does Monochromatic Mean?

Monochromatic refers to the use of one color in various shades.

monochromatic color scheme

Simple examples of monochromatic color can be described as varying shades of gray, like our early black and white television programming, or sepia photographs of times past. But make sure you do not equate monochromatic with boring or old-fashioned!

“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” Wassily Kandinsky (Russian artist, 1866 – 1944)

Even a single color can speak to the soul. Need proof? Look around and take inspiration from nature. (God is a pretty good artist, yes?) See how impactful monochromatic can be…

monochromatic green photoMonochromatic pink photomonochromatic orange photoMonochromatic blue photo

Monochromatic Marketing

So how does this color concept apply to your marketing? Let’s say that you are having an ad designed. You feel that it needs to draw attention to itself so that people will pay attention to your offer. You think that using a lot of bright colors is the way to accomplish this. Right? Maybe. In fact, the exact opposite can be true.

There are a few reasons why you’ll sometimes want to stick with one color in your marketing collateral.

Clearly communicate a message.

The outcome of using a single color is that the design becomes minimalistic by default. The benefit of minimalist design is that it reduces distractions and lets the message shine through.

Using a monochromatic base gives you the perfect opportunity to still highlight your message or call to action in a single contrasting pop of color, so it is the only thing to stand out on your piece. Introducing even one more color to this will diminish this impact. Too many colors can be distracting to the eye, and create a disjointed experience for the viewer, taking away from your important message.

Look polished, sophisticated, and professional.

Are you a high-end sophisticated brand? Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, unpretentious and simple? Surprisingly, both can benefit highly from a monochromatic palette. It can single-handedly be both sophisticated and simple. Particularly if a palette is not well thought out or considered, a liberal use of color is an instant indicator of inexperience. That is certainly not the impression you want your business to give off!

Reinforce your visual brand.

Whatever your brand color is, the use of it is always an opportunity to reinforce your brand. Instead of diluting it with a bunch of different colors or even full color photos, why not capitalize on the power color has to bolster your brand association?

Shades of Purple

An example of monochromatic marketing material is the below poster for the “Shades of Purple” event. In this case, the use of a monochromatic color scheme supports the theme of the event itself, so it was an easy decision to use this palette.

Shades of Purple Poster

Magnify your message with monochromatic color.

Monochromatic color schemes certainly have their place. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using multiple colors (within reason!). You can easily build a harmonious color palette of 5 or 6 colors and still have a successful design. A monochromatic palette is simply another tool in the design toolbox to be used when appropriate. Use it to help enhance or better communicate your message. Remember to have fun with your design and make a professional and profound impact.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 13 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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