top of page
  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

#rawthought: Personal Palettes: Claiming your COLOURs for your Digital Presence

First off, I need to admit that I am American but have adopted the OU in certain words like “colour” – perhaps it’s all the Agatha Christie books I read as a kid (I remember getting “glamour” marked wrong on a 6th grade spelling test), or perhaps it’s because I have a lot of dear friends from the UK and Canada. Sorry if it seems a bit pretentious, but this post is about crafting an image and sticking to it – not caving into the “norm” or external pressures.

This is a #rawthought post- so I promise to keep it brief. It’s been sitting as a title in my blog drafts waiting for a few weeks while I’ve been busy, but was inspired by a Twitter conversation I had with Shawn McCusker (@ShawnMcCusker) about personal branding. He’s an educator and presenter with EdTechTeacher  , but the concepts we were chatting about could apply to anyone, really. He was  discussing how he’d like to settle in on a specific look and feel – perhaps a designated font – for his slide decks, but had not thought of a colour palette yet.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.20.51 AM

Colour is the first thing we take in when viewing media – it’s internalized before we can start decoding all the other complex imagery and text, and it’s steeped in symbolism passed down culturally but also, some think, biologically. I feel like it’s the honey to an image’s sugar (honey goes directly into the bloodstream and doesn’t have to be broken down). Pantone has a wonderful book for designers called Color: Messages and Meanings, which is a great  start for those seeking to understand the nuances of colour in advertising and media.

palette copy is a comprehensive site that features a section on color and branding.

And just for fun, this “Psychology in Advertising” offers insight into the use of colour in marketing.

Once you understand the need for a personal colour palette you can go ahead and begin to choose yours. It might be your favourite colours, but be careful – if your favourite colours are pale yellow and  baby pink they might not project the message you want nor will they translate well into multi-media platforms.

Here are some tips:

1. Keep it under 42 is best, though you can riff by doing “shades”, plus there is always black, white, and grey)

2. Use strong colours or the strongest versions of them. I love pink and it symbolized many things for me. But I needed to opt for a wild, hot pink rather than a pale blush pink.

3. Really think about WHY you are choosing the colours, though sometimes you need to heed the gut feeling. You probably won’t have to explain it to anyone (I’ve only told a few people why I use hot pink and black), but the key is working out the reasoning yourself. Use the resources available to help you if you’d like to explore symbolism.

4. Once you choose your palette, start re-branding everything you do in those colours. This includes:

* all social media platforms in which you have a choice in colour schemes

* personal web sites

* business cards, logos, invoices, etc.

* slide decks, videos, or any other media you create

For example, here is a selection of some of the G+ communities I moderate, which I’ve branded in my signature hot pink and black sketch drawings

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.02.56 AM

or, a screen shot of my SlideShare showing three of my slide decks:

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.06.22 AM

in fact, I’ve made all the media I create in this one style to the point where I do not need to sign it- people just recognize my work (screenshot from my “Myconography” Tumblr archive)

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.08.43 AM

On a side note, once I read that “yellow” signified “creativity” it all made sense to me that some of my favourite people on the Internet used yellow and black as their branding colours – Maria Popova of Brainpickings, Seth Godin, and Austin Kleon, to name a few, not to mention my new employer, EdgeMakers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.12.10 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.14.48 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.16.54 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.19.53 AM

I have to add that I do feel the perfect avatar and a selection of other header images needed for social media sites is imperative, too, and that you keep them consistent across platforms. Here are some tips:

1. the simpler the better

Love my friend Brenda Ball’s


2. black and white always make one look better AND can be considered more “artsy” – moreover, the high contrast nature of black and white will make it more noticeable in a stream (such as Twitter)

love these one of Brad and Damian (ok, I took the photo of Damian)



3. high contrast– as aforementioned, if you have a logo or colour photo keep it to a few colours and high contrast, not muted

Roxanne does it right with colour (those lips!)


4. the more close up the better – especially for avatars…people want to see your face not a tiny toothpick-like rendition of you. Besides, you need to be recognizable from your avatar in the (and I use this term loosely) “real world”.

ahh…just had the chance to meet Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) in London and he really was exactly like this!


5. mind the pixels! nothing screams “unprofessional!” or “i-know-nada-about-social media” than a blurry avatar or header image. Most platforms give you exact dimensions necessary, so you might need to play around…it’s worth it.

6. If you a uber duber cool, like Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) and Alan Levine (@cogdog) you have cultivated  a “persona” and therefore your avatar is not you but has come to represent you with equal force as your own visage.

Case in point:



So have fun. Research. Play around. Experiment. Pick your palette. And start a-branding. Life will become much simpler. A few years back, for various reasons too lengthy for this post I ditched almost all colour from my wardrobe and have taken to wearing only black. This minimalist approach was the best move I’ve made for productivity in the past few years. Well, that and the hot pink and black media palette. I hope you feel the same. As for Shawn McCuster, I can’t wait to see which colours he chooses.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.24.21 AM

#BradOvenellCarter #brendaball #DamianRentoule #austinkleon #shawnmccuster #personalbranding #avatar #roxannedesforges #mariapopova #color #sethgodin #edgemakers #SteveWheeler #psychology #socialmedia #marketing #colour #dougbelshaw #alanlevine #media #rawthought #branding #advertising

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page