Showcasing brand personality on your website

Maybe it’s me, but I’m struggling to see why the latest e-commerce (mainly fashion) trend of stripping all colour from a website is everywhere. It’s completely ludicrous.

Marks & Spencer, ASOS, Urban Outfitters… I could go on. There are countless website re-designs to mention. I understand the idea of clarity, I mean nothing is clearer if it isn’t ‘right there, in black and white’. And I’m not denying they’re lovely designs, in fact they’re great, functionally. But surely some little touches here and there wouldn’t go a-miss. To me, and I can’t be the only one, some colour in design means ‘flavour’, or, a bit of ‘personality’.

At Abel & Cole, where I worked as a digital designer full-time for nearly three years, we under-went a huge re-brand project before I left recently.

We brutally went running through all the colours and fonts from our work from the past 4 or 5 years (‘5 years’ being the last time there was a spotlight on the brand design). Thing with A&C is, they don’t have a colour. They used them all. It’s part of the brand’s image, really. Bright, colourful, not too obvious. The only thing that remains consistent really, was their signature ‘slab’ font.

To put this brand philosophy into the website design was a huge and interesting task (we’d done a few design refreshes here and there before, but nothing of this scale). You can’t use ‘all the colours’ in a website’s design. It has to be consistent, intuitive, clear... Colours mean something on a website. Orange for notifications, red for warnings, green for success etc. Like an unwritten rule. That’s the user experience design standard that has been set since the dawn of time*. (*which is what I refer to as the birth of the internet, what else was there before the internet!?).

The main inspiration, the holy gourd

We settled, just after the new year, on 3 main colours for the website. These colours aren’t used in our print, not together in uniform like on our site at least. It was really tough. We actually took the inspiration from a squash vegetable. A dark grey/green exterior, with bright and fruitful red/orange inside splashed with warm green interior walls.

It’s sensible and plain enough to not be distracting on the outside, and it’s fun and exciting on the inside. Much like how a website should be.

You don’t want the menus colours to be distracting and in the way, but you do want them to be engaging and want to use them at the same time no? That’s way I came up with the idea of having a soft pattern on top of the bright green colour we chose for the navigation section.

I saw the opening of the menu as the idea of ‘revealing to see what’s inside’, it should be exciting and intriguing. Like when you enter a shop you’ve never heard of, remember when you went into Urban Outfitters for the first time? Their shop interiors are designed incredibly, showing off what the brand is about and what kind of things they sell. Why is their website complete opposite of that?

It’s all about using the colours and personality in the right place. A lesson I learned very quickly in the last year, and will remember for the rest of my career.

Menu design for the new Abel & Cole website
Header design for the new Abel & Cole website
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