The Brand Colour Swap 2: What’s in a colour?

The last time we discussed how important colours are in Branding (and weren’t busy doing t-shirt printing in the UK), it got people’s’ attention, and the best feedback I received was that some of the brands ‘didn’t look right’. There’s something unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable about seeing globally-familiar brand logos wearing someone else’s clothes – and everybody seems to agree.

There was no big agenda behind the brand colour swap. It was a creative marketing exercise in cognition.

The point of the whole exercise for me, as a graphic designer, was to explore how we associate a certain colour scheme to a given company or product. We tend not to compare competitors’ colour schemes unless we are actually commissioned to design a logo and need to benchmark some standards.

I could never create something more iconic than Nike’s swirl, or the big yellow M of McDonald’s.

But in any case, choosing your weapons wisely when designing a logo (including concept, icon, style, typography and of course colours), is a question of competitive analysis and making the right calls based on extensive research.

Recently, I was commissioned to create a brand identity for a new coffee-based soft drink from scratch. For this project, I decided to return to the Illustrator’s boards and play with swapping colours. This second brand colour swap should help me in my research, and it may help others too. Maybe we will understand a little better how these colourful decisions can make a graphic designer’s job easier. I want to find the pattern, which is one you can choose to follow or break.

Below, I share some of these results alongside my thoughts on them. Hopefully, it will help some colleagues/students/design enthusiasts be more creative. Though, the main goal all this is to think about the use of colour in design. Plain and simple. Enjoy!


Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, starbucks dunkin donuts band colour swap

In general, I believe most of the swapped logos are way less interesting than the originals. The Starbucks mermaid is so iconic that it could probably withstand a major brand colour change. That indicates good design. Dunkin’ Donuts, on the other hand, relies in its colours (I love the combination) a lot more than on the logo itself. It becomes dull when monochromatic.

Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, sprite 7up band colour swap

The same happens with Sprite against 7Up. The latest Sprite logo (Mid 2015, going all minimalistic and white) lost the strength that the green/blue/yellow combination enjoyed. I might grab a Sprite can thinking I’m trying out a new drink – or maybe a 7Up. Oh, wait… I see now. Smart move, Coca-Cola Company – though I don’t think they’re that concerned with competition, anyway. I like the retro simplicity of the new 7Up logo, which is way classier than the previous version from 2010.

Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, heineken budweiser band colour swap

For me the Heineken vs Budweiser tryout represents how alluring their colours are. For me they look absolutely terrible when swapped, and makes my brain fry a little. Even so, Heineken in blue & red isn’t as bad as all that, is it?

Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, heineken monster band colour swap

Monster’s lime green & white can only work on single-coloured elements. In a composed illustration it wouldn’t have enough contrast between elements to make it as interesting as Red Bull’s colour combination.

Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, fedex ups band colour swap

FedEx vs. UPS: When swapped, I’m confused in a good way – as if I’m not sure whether it’s the correct colour or not. But I don’t care that much. Original colours or not, they both work. Maybe shipping services are not very colour-sensitive? That or I don’t use them that much. 🙂

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Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, ebay amazon band colour swap

Ebay’s quadri-colour logo only uses a 4-letter word. It’s difficult to swap with Amazon’s elegant black & orange combination. And it just occurred to me how similar to Google’s colour choice it is. Although I don’t see them as competitors, they do rely on the same colour palette.

Band Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, playmobil lego band colour swap

Playmobil vs Lego is a good example of how conveying your product/industry via your logo’s colour choice can pay off. It helps a lot in the toy industry to quickly correlate your products’ characteristics with the logo – whether by shape or colour. Would you consider LEGO a toy, by the way? I’m an adult woman and would still build it frequently if I could. Playmobil just looks way too simple in the end; not attractive at all. 🙂

Brand Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, canon nikon band colour swap

On the other hand, Nikon’s logo with Canon’s colour scheme just doesn’t work. Red can be a tricky colour to work with, especially when combined with another as dark as black. Canon’s typography is very strong on its own, but the swapped yellow makes it look bland.

Brand Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, oral-b colgate brand colour swap

With Oral-B vs Colgate, I couldn’t tell which is correct, actually. The same goes for the FedEx vs UPS swap, which doesn’t look that wrong – or do I care enough about toothpaste?

Brand Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, uniliver P&G band colour swap

Unilever vs P&G reminds me a lot of the Samsung vs Nokia swap from the first article. It’s the same industry, same colour, different shade. Of course, their typography is very iconic as well (especially Unilever’s beautiful crafted icon), but it’s interesting to see how multinational consumer goods companies trust blue to keep a concise, reliable, image.

Brand Colour Swap, Swapping the colour of the brands, real madrid barcelona band colour swap

Finally, the last brand colour swap: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. This is just for fun (and to make some football fanatics angry, I’m sure!). It would be interesting to study how sports teams design/redesign their badges, and how that relates to their jerseys and merchandising throughout the season. They renovate it every single year!

If you still want to check out more swapped brands, don’t hesitate to have a look at the original article!

The Brand Colour Swap: What’s in a colour?

Feel free to leave your thoughts (all feedback is welcome! Even trolls) in the comments section below, I promise I’ll try to answer to all this time. 🙂


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