3 steps to presenting color schemes to a client

Clients usually want a say on color.  Color preferences are visceral and every client wants a color scheme that reflects the passion that they hold for their brand.  I have seen clients who have nothing much to add during a design project, but when we get to selecting the color scheme, they become animated and throw out words like ‘likable’, ‘energetic’, ‘raw’ – giving words to personal color associations that they have developed through their lives.  It is therefore an incredibly delicate task to arrive at a color scheme in a democratic fashion.  This article takes you through 3 steps that will help you and your client agree on a color scheme.

1. Take control of the brief

Most clients do not put down everything on a brief.  Typically, a brief gets edited during every meeting, creating endless frustration for the design team.  Here is an example of a typical project brief:

We want to launch a chain of coffee shops – not quite like Starbucks – more trendy, I guess

The surest foundation for any design project is a strong, elaborate brief that has been set in stone.  Elevator briefs and 2 liner emails have to essentially progress to a document that outlines the following:

  • Business objectives of the project – What does the client hope to achieve in terms of return on investment?
  • Target audience – Who is the consumer? Detail down the demography & psychography.
  • Selling Proposition – What is being offered to the consumer?  Put down the details of the offering, not just in strategic terms but the ground-level activities that will follow.
  • Design Objectives – These flow from all of the above.  It will be determined by the strategic objectives as well as the following ground-level activities that need to be achieved.

This is what your final brief may look like, broadly:

Launch a branded chain of coffee shops targeted towards young professionals who are linked to friends, fans & mentors via technology and seeking a personal & connected space to enjoy a stimulating cup of coffee.

2.  Agree on the keywords

As part of the design brief, it is essential that you agree on keywords.  Keywords are terms or phrases that communicate the mood of the design output.  What should the design evoke in the consumer at a sub-conscious and visceral sense?  These would be related to:

  • Mood – What is the mood / ambience / atmosphere that the design output seeks to create?  Should the end consumer feel stimulated or soothed?  Is the brand talking from a position of authority or trust?  Are you persuading your consumer to be experimental or loyal?
  • Imagery – What are the kind of images that each keyword relates to?  Does rustic mean home baked bread or a weathered barn?  Is the brand going to be seen as a mentor or a friend?
  • Clusters – Sometimes, a number of keywords are voiced during a brief.  This does not mean there are conflicting briefs.  The best way to organize these keywords would be to cluster similar ones together.

After a session like this, you will arrive at clusters of keywords that may look like this:

rustic, homely, comforting

modern, formal, business

bohemian, artistic, individual

organic, conscious, ecological

3.  Get visual…quickly

As you progress from the design brief to keywords,  you will quickly realise that words are not effective enough to reach an agreement.  This is where you need to get into the visual mode.  Present mood boards relating to the keywords.  Mood boards are a great way to get consensus on colors and moods.

You might think that creating mood boards will only increase the time spent on the project.  Most designers who actively work with mood boards feel that it saves time as consensus is built quickly allowing the project to move smoothly.  At Rudecolor.com, we have a large library of mood boards that you can access right during a client meeting.  Simply search by a specific keyword and download relevant mood boards.

Here are some mood boards that are specific to a coffee shop:

rustic, homely, comforting

3 Coffee






modern, formal, business

9 Coffee











bohemian, artistic, individual

8 Coffee











organic, conscious, ecological

7 Coffee










As you can see, each mood board is quite different from the other.  This will compel the client to make a choice on the kind of mood that they visualize for the brand.  This, in turn, will enable you to zero down on the color schemes in a quick and efficient manner.  The best part – your client will enjoy the process as well.

Hope this helps!




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Lovers of color, culture & design

We seek to make the connection between culture & creation, informing the world at large of consumer and design trends.

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