Your Brand Color: Keep it Looking Healthy.

By Electric Pen

Ah, the pre-work, pre-dawn, and always pre-desire-to-get-out-of-bed workout. The alarm clock immediately triggers that internal struggle. Do I drag my feet onto the cold floor, or do I convince myself that I’ll make it up some time during the day…or perhaps that I deserve a day off? Fortunately, the importance of staying healthy and shedding a few excess pounds prevails. Every day, in rain, sleet, or snow, I deliver myself to the gym.

In case you were wondering if you somehow got linked to a fitness blog instead of a design one, don’t worry, you didn’t. The necessity for maintaining the morning workout and consistently managing one’s health is quite analogous to questions I’m often asked about managing color. Not in the sense of “What color should I wear to make me look thinner?” but in the context of continuously maintaining the integrity of a corporate brand color.

Regularly I get inquiries from clients about problems they have getting their brand color displaying or printing correctly. And those I talk to about their color issues want to solve their color problem and move on. Done. Fixed. Finished. However, here is the painful reality: Color will always have to be managed, just like our waistlines. There is no finish line. No quick fix. The “solution”, to use that term loosely, is to assess each color issue in its own context – because color challenges indeed run the gamut.

The following covers some memorable pain points I’ve heard, and recommendations for how to deal with them.

Pain: We’ve painted a wall in our office our main brand color but it just doesn’t look right.
Solution: Light it up! Flood the wall with even, color-balanced light that overpowers ambient lighting. What is color-balanced light? Check out

Pain: If my brand new, super expensive color copier were lighter I’d chuck it out the window. Anything printed in our brand color doesn’t print accurately. For example, when we print anything with our company logo on it, the color looks totally different than it does on my business card.
Solution: Well, just like keeping in shape is exponentially harder the older you get, that’s just the way the world – and your printer – works. If it’s a significant enough of a problem you can pick a new color for your brand that gets more accurate results from your printer. However, I recommend you call in the pros – like us. Most likely we can set up a file that will print to your satisfaction.

Pain: The color on my business card does not match the color on my company’s website.
Solution: If it must match, you’ll have a better shot if you print your business card on coated paper and make sure your offset printer uses Pantone ink, not CMYK. You might have to pick a different brand color to get the result closer. When you get your new card make sure you have plenty of balanced light (

Pain: Our brand color on our website looks different on my computer at the office, on my PowerMac at home, and on my iPhone.
Solution: Calibrate for each environment—office, home, mobile. Reach out to your IT department and ask them to color balance your monitor at the office. For your Mac at home you can start with trying to set the color yourself by navigating to System Preferences, Displays, Color and then Calibrate. Your computer will walk you through balancing your color. Finally, keep your iPhone screen as bright as your desktop using the brightness slider found within Settings/Wallpapers & Brightness. Keep the brightness in the room you are viewing each device as similar as possible. If you want to get really picky, ensure each room has balanced light, too (see #3).

Pain: Our company sponsored a charity event and the company logo in the program looked totally off from our brand color.
Solution: This can be an easy one. If your brand guide allows for a black and white execution of your logo, then side step the whole issue by using that version. For a more involved solution, ask us to create an electronic logo specially formulated for how the program will be printed. We’ll contact the publisher with a few questions about their printing approach and paper used, then create a special version of the logo for this one time use.

Pain: I just got back from a trade show and none of the color on our materials matched! The booth, folder, the sell sheet, logo color on the corporate video…all different.
Solution: We can get the colors close, but likely never exact. Each of these uses a different process to display the color, so the result will always look a little different. Request proofs anytime you are reproducing your logo, and, when possible, provide finished examples of your logo to vendors you’ve engaged to create additional materials. Keep in mind that if you have Electric Pen assist you, we’ll be able to manage the color closer to its intended state.

Pain: We just got tee shirts back from the screener and the logo has completely shifted color.
Solution: Consider how your logo color may change if overprinted on dark fabric. Print white first or choose an alternate color. When silk-screening your logo on a colored shirt, the first layer of color should be white to block the underlying color of the shirt from bleeding through.

Pain: Okay, I admit it. We designed our own direct mail piece and hired an online printer to produce it. However, our brand color looks nothing like it does on the business card Electric Pen designed for us.
Solution: Understand color space and use your logo correctly – RGB for viewing on-screen in PowerPoint, video and websites, CMYK for printing digitally or offset press, Pantone/PMS inks when printing solid inks are available. In this case, it’s likely that the piece was printed using a four-color CMYK printing process. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. K for black? Yup. Undoubtedly, the color in the electronic logo you submitted was not optimized for the printing press. In fact, it could be that it was a different color format all together. Just give us a shout – we can produce a logo file that is optimized for CMYK.

Pain: Our brand color doesn’t look right printed as a flood on our folder.
Solution: Tooth/texture, brightness and density of paper will affect the visual perception of your brand’s color. Choosing a different card stock and applying a coating may help. Matching your brand color with a specially mixed ink formulated specifically for the paper you are using may help as well.

Pain: Our company logo looks perfect on my computer. However, when I show it to our CEO on her computer it doesn’t look right.
Solution: Ask your IT department to color calibrate her computer. If they stare at you blankly, you may need an external company that can help. If you are in the Seattle area try calling our friends at

Pain: Why do our website brand colors look different on every computer I see it on?
Solution: Every monitor and computer displays color slightly differently. Take heart though, due to increasingly better technology color looks much more consistent on various computers than it did when I started in this business twenty years ago. The results will continue to improve drastically, and quite rapidly.

I imagine you’re quite impressed by how I related the maintenance of personal fitness to brand color fitness. But, admittedly, while working out diligently and protecting my health is an expertise I am still developing, helping clients manage and protect their brand color is right in the Electric Pen wheelhouse. So if you have a particularly challenging brand identity issue, or any color question we are here to help!