How Color Proofs Strengthen Branding

Posted inGraphic Design

As businesses vie for attention in an oversaturated market, a strong brand identity can make all the difference. That means spot-on color is a must for print campaigns.

Brands are looking for differentiation

According to Shopify’s Future of Commerce 2022 report, an astounding 10 years’ worth of e-commerce growth occurred in the first quarter of 2020. Following this pandemic-induced boom, companies are now tasked with investing in their brands to stand out from the competition, gain new customers, and keep them coming back for more.

The other major trend the report highlights is that “digital advertising is more costly and less lucrative than ever before.” The declining returns of digital make print a cost-effective way for brands to get in front of customers.

Using color to stand out

What hasn’t changed is that color continues to be a crucial aspect of a brand’s visual identity. Chris Javate, a Creative Design Director in New York City, says that color is “a detail that makes a world of difference when it comes to branding.”

Today, as design trends reflect a highly competitive arena, marketers are using brighter colors or, alternatively, unique and subtle shades to leave a lasting impression. Looka, a logo-design and brand identity platform, reports a trend toward “bolder, neon colors,” citing the 2021 update of Baskin Robbins’ logo. Its analysis states, “Small brands are also opting for bigger colors as the online marketplace becomes increasingly saturated with competition (thanks COVID-19).”

While bright colors are all over packaging, magazines, and catalogs, some understated hues are trending too. Designers are turning to earthy tones, pastels, and slightly faded colors to give images a retro appeal. Delicate gradients are making a big comeback as well.   

Consistency is key

Whatever palette a design team chooses to convey a brand personality, the way it renders across various mediums matters a great deal.

Javate says, “With branding, consistency is key. You want to make sure your brand is represented the way you want, at all times. It comes down to the simplest elements like placement, sizing, and color. If you get a communication from a brand, and the color is a bit off, it’s in danger of losing equity.”

In-house proofs save time for creativity

Printed proofs are a key tool in ensuring that a particular palette keeps its integrity.

Javate says, “If you have a red design and send it off for printing without a proof, everything could turn out looking orange. We send direct mailers, catalogs, and print ads to various printers, and they all have different settings. The color proof from your side says, ‘this is what you have to match,’ so everyone has the same point of reference.”

Designers often send their work to a print provider, wait for the proofs to come back, and check that they look as intended before sending them off for production, whether that be to a publication or a packaging manufacturer. Sometimes this can take several rounds, which is a time-consuming process.

Having a right-sized production-level printer in the office, such as the RICOH Pro C5300s, gives time back to designers, allowing them more freedom to explore their options. Javate explains, “Being able to print proofs in-house means you don’t have to wait for someone else to print it before checking it.”

At home with color

Any interior designer will tell you that they found themselves booked up for the last two years. As we’ve had to spend more time at home, the domestic arts underwent a revival, and segments such as home retail became big business. 

In this catalog for a home goods store, the colors suggest a sense of comfort and calm. By creating proofs on the RICOH Pro C5300s before production, the designer was able to make sure that the aesthetic subtleties came across accurately. 

Lights, color, action

While live entertainment hasn’t fared so well recently, the industry is expected to make a strong rebound.

Lou Capone, who leads color management projects for Ricoh, emphasizes the importance of accurate hues for his entertainment clients: “It’s all about getting the right reaction from the end-consumer. When they see a poster of an entertainer or athlete, they should have a real, visceral reaction. That’s how you create the connection with them. That’s why it’s so important to get things like skin tones, eye color, and halftones to look realistic.”

With fast, in-office proofs, creatives can make sure that photography strikes just the right tone.

RICOH Graphic Communications is committed to supporting the vitality of the graphic arts community. Your brilliance continues to drive us and the products we create. This series explores the role, resurgence, and retro appeal of paper for creatives in today’s digital age.

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