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Although I have little problems creating a colour palette for my designs, I do find it very difficult to present them to my customers. When I do, I mostly get either blank stares or micromanagement questions (and well-meant, ill-supported suggestions) born from misunderstanding the hierarchy of the palette's colours.

The colour palette is a significant part of the design process, but its vlaue is often lost on the average layman—which most of my customers are. As such, I do feel the need to present it as it is a big part of the work I do. Both to justify for myself the time I put into it, and for my customer the amount of money I'm asking for the project.

So here's the first part of my question: In what cases is it a good idea to explicitly pay attention to the colour palette when presenting my design, and when should I just gloss over it?

Do note that I take 'design' as a rather broad term here. If your answer is different for, say, a logo design, a webdesign or a flyer design, please elaborate.

When I decide to elaborate on it, what is a good way of doing presenting the colour scheme? I have tried different ways, most of them being met with incomprehension or no reaction at all.

I tried just adding a bar of swatches next to the design, which confused my customers: enter image description here

I also tried spending an entire slide to it with a somewhat proportional schematic. This mainly met with a tepid non-response, or with concerns about the starkly contrasting non-major colours (which I include for details, eg. hover states): enter image description here

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I would judge by the company and its existence. If the company is a well established brand, like Coke Cola, Pepsi, Red Bull then an expectation of the brand's color scheme would be expected in your design and judged with a fine tooth comb. Also, depending on the company they may have a campaign they're trying to stick with that should be defined in the brief if colors and typography are expected in your project.

If the company is a new establishment then it would your responsibility to sell them your color palette with your designs. Some new companies can usually provide a range of what they're looking for in the brief. If the company is unsure make sure to not target color too much if they find the whole process overwhelming. Also, new companies typically have more tolerance to color expectations when designing for a new developing business.

I would also suggest possibly changing your delivery method if you're not implementing a style tile:

enter image description here

(Example style tile illustrates the beauty of typography and color)

The beauty of a style tile is you can show what you plan to use in regards to Typography and your color palette when both will play a vital role in your design.

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I have also been met with looks of bewilderment or incomprehension in the past, and to combat this I now include a style guide which elaborates either on the use of existing color standards or new ones along with the type fonts, etc., etc. I explain that one great way to keep customers is to keep the brand consistent across all media - thus the need for the standards.

I normally present this in a small booklet format which includes color swatches, type fonts, typesetting options, and something similar to Matt's beautiful example above (FOXYRAE style tile) in the style guide, in different media examples such as website, print pieces, and email blasts, or whatever the project calls for.

I also use examples of larger companies and distinctive brands like P&G product lines, Pepsi, a department store like Macy's, or whatever might be similar to their brand, which can clearly illustrate the importance for a clear and consistent color scheme, design and brand. Color should be an integral part of the design and that can be emphasized in the initial presentation, then illustrated throughout.

It sounds like you have tried to present color several ways already. Through my own experience in this same area (and the resulting failure of comprehension by clients,) I have found that no matter how large or small the project, presenting the color both in an initial standards booklet and then referring to it briefly throughout demonstration of the pieces designed has worked best for me.

  • Hi kwalls, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your answer. If you have any questions, please see the help center or ping one of us in Graphic Design Chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site! – Vincent Apr 7 '15 at 8:50
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If it is not a Branding Color Scheme, I don't think the customer should know what colors you are using.

but you can present the colors you use in an applicable way, not just dummy colors block beside the desig.

what I mean If you are using a yellow for example, you should present the yellow in an applicable way, yellow in background banner, yellow in typography, even yellow in stationary they may use and so one.

some example to show you what I mean

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

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I believe clients do not care about color unless they already have some prejudice against a particular color or color range.

Due to this, showing a color break out too early doesn't spark any interest. I never refer to color breakouts until after I've shown mockups. I walk clients through a piece and specifically indicate why this color works well here using terms they are interested in --

"A vibrant yellow background is used for the banner because yellow is often perceived as a youthful, energetic, color helping promote the company as a lively, fun, place."

or

"Orange is used for the text here because convey many of the same aspects of yellow - vibrant, friendly, gregarious - while being a bit more subtle than the bright yellow and provides contrast with the yellow at the same time."

or

Since our goal is to help promote a sense of security, safety, and protection to clients, a mid-range blue is used elsewhere. Blue is often a color used for hospitals, banks, and emergency services. This helps customers feel like the company is part of a team dedicated to assisting them when they are in need.

This is what they latch onto. They may not click with the "yellow", "orange" or "blue" part, but the rest of it piques interest.

Then, after you've walked clients through the actual design you can show a color breakout. And walk them through the break out again ....

  • a vibrant yellow.
  • a bright orange
  • a midrange blue

So with these colors, overall we are visually relaying that we are xxx, xxx, xxx, xxx and xxxx,

That sort of thing. In the end they still may not really care about the color breakout but this at least keeps them interested and conveys the information before they tend to "tune out". And if there are color objections, you'll hear them earlier and if possible can simply disregard the breakout until colors are agreed upon.

Just what works for me.

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Showing the color palette for a design to clients depends on what you are designing and the context surrounding it. If your design is the springboard for other collateral (like a website, store or office decor, or part of the branding) then it will matter to the clients. Then you present it as part of the branding style guide, because that context is understandable to the clients.

Otherwise, it's information that's useful to you, your design team and the printers.

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