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  • Writer's pictureIan Morris

Colour psychology: how grey can be a pivotal part of a modern brand

Colour Psychology Series: Grey (background with stones in grey)

The brand colour grey

Living room with grey painted wall

Grey was once the poor cousin in colour terms – the drab unwelcoming colour, reserved for describing the bad weather, blandness or something that caused a problem. Being neither one thing or another. Even silver, with its precious metal status, couldn’t rival gold.

These days, you won’t have to look far before you find grey and silver. Their understated versatility is winning them fans in all industries. Having a grey area is perfect for highlighting the other colours around and provides a more noticeable alternative for using white, without being as dominant as black.

Grey light of dawn

Grey has been creeping in everywhere – our homes, offices, brands and websites. One theory goes that in the austere times of the past decade, we’ve embraced grey to match the national mood. But it might there’s a simpler and less political explanation…

Modern light bulbs produce a different kind of light than that of their predecessors.

The old favourites like magnolia fair badly with this change. Grey, on the other hand, works nicely and creates a backdrop for stronger colours, taking the edge off them enough to stop them being too overbearing or oppressive.

Couple this with the increased use of stainless steel and concrete in our interiors and you begin to understand why grey is so popular. Read more about grey in interior design here.

Silver ghost

Grey might be a popular colour in interior design, but in branding, it takes a more supporting role. Few brands use grey or silver as one of their dominant colours, instead keeping it as a key figure in a wider palette. It’s also a key colour for use in websites, to add sophistication and lift flatter elements. As with interiors, it can be used to help the main brand colours stand out and feel more vibrant.

There is one particular area where silver is the colour to be seen in, and that’s the automotive industry. Here, silver dominates, turning up on the majority of badges – Audi, Toyota, Lexus and Mini are just some of those who use it in their logo.

But it’s not just logos where the colour fares well in this area. Silver is the most popular colour for cars in the UK, according to the RAC (April 2018) – accounting for 1/5 of cars on our roads.

Picture of a grey car

Core brand

Grey and silver may not be dominant but those that use it as a core colour do so well. One of the few brands occupying the pinnacle of perfection is Apple. They use grey and silver throughout their brand, reinforcing their premium nature. Their colour choices were always clean and classic so it’s no surprise the iPhone X is only available in space grey and silver.

Apple using a colour so prominently that others are yet to benefit from is typical of their pioneering style. It leads to the unanswered question; are they able to be different because they’re successful or are they successful because they dare to be different?

Grey matter

Person with grey hair and beard

In popular culture (like in many things), grey is understated and often being overlooked. Grey has very little cultural significance or meaning attributed too it, which means you’re unlikely to benefit from positive associations but equally unlikely to upset or offend anywhere around the world.

Grey is associated with wisdom and the process of going grey and age equalling wisdom only enhances that. Unlike in Africa where black denotes wisdom.

In the past, grey was the colour of undyed wool and therefore a denotation of being poor or wishing to live a modest life.

So you now know a little more behind the brand colour grey and the connotations of using it as part of your brand. If you want to review how colour is used in your brand, we’re here to help.

More from the brand colour psychology series

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