3 Reasons Brands Need to Update Color Rules ASAP

Lisi Whitworth
Published in
4 min readNov 30, 2022


Providing an accessible brand guide with color rules to creative talent is a huge time saver, supports quality assurance, and ensures that content is accessible for everyone — not only persons with disabilities.

You’ll see (pun intended) why shortly. Read on.

The nutshell:

  1. Color inversion in dark mode can make content impossible to read.
  2. Up to 86% of websites have poor color contrast, making the content hard to read.
  3. Branding on print materials, social media and third party platforms are affected, too.

A link to a guideline, “How to update brand rules for accessibility and dark mode” is provided at the end of this article.

1. Color inversion in dark mode can make the content impossible to read

The increasing popularity of dark mode means that content now needs to be tested for accessibility not only in light, but also tested in dark mode.

For the last few months I have been taking screenshots of emails that are not readable at all, even for individuals who do not need glasses or a screen reader to consume the content.

89% of smartphone users use dark mode
Jason Wise, Earthweb

A collage of 10 phone sized screenshots that show terrible color contrast in dark mode. Much of the content is unreadable.

2. Up to 86% of websites have poor color contrast, making the content hard to read

In 2020, WebAIM analyzed one million home pages for accessibility issues and found that 98.1% had at least one WCAG 2.0 failure, and that the average number of errors was 60.9. The most common failures were vision related: 86.3% had low contrast text and 66% were missing image alt text.

Screenshot of webpage visually displaying the statistics described in the paragraph above.

This does not affect only persons with disabilities, but also affects fully sighted individuals — for example, let’s say a marketing professional creates an event promotion, placing blue text over an image of a white building with blue sky above it, and it looks fabulous on their laptop. Then the user sees the promotion on their phone. Since the layout is rearranged to fit the phone, the text gets moved to the sky portion, making it completely unreadable.

Things may have improved in the two years since, hence the “up to 86%” — or, it may have gotten worse. Some websites rely on third party providers such as Accessibe, Userway, or SiteImprove to automatically fix issues for visitors, which is a good safeguard but should not be relied upon as the sole solution. Keep reading to learn why.

3. Branding on print materials, social media and third party platforms are affected, too.

When their marketing materials completely miss the mark, brands that have publicly committed to diversity, equity and inclusion risk being viewed by potential customers as failing to fulfill their promise.

Consider the example mentioned earlier, of a marketing professional creating an event promotion online. Also think about the dark mode challenge described above — the majority of third party platforms now offer dark mode capability.

Tools such as Canva are often used to quickly create graphics for sharing on social media. Content management systems allow staff members to post news, announcements, event flyers. PDF’s and videos with graphics in it cannot be fixed by these third party “fixer” solutions.

One may say, “if I create a low contrast image, the image description will do the job.” Here’s the flaw with this logic — only blind people use screen readers. There are millions of people who wear glasses and can read just fine, but are color blind, have aging eyes that have trouble with poor color contrast.

And last but not least, think about printouts being handed out at an event. For attendees who cannot read the materials, this leads to a less than positive brand sentiment.

When creative talent and marketing professionals are not provided with brand guidelines that have been updated with rules that consider color contrast or dark mode, there is always the risk that print materials, social media and third party platforms will be inaccessible.

Step by Step Guide: How to update brand rules for accessibility and dark mode

I have put together a step by step guideline for creating an accessible color scheme for branding, available for anyone to use. Check it out: help.eventida.com/article/328-how-to-update-brand-rules

Screenshot of a Miro board with a large bright yellow bar at the top with text “Rebranding.” There are frames for each round of effort, containing about a dozen color charts and palettes.

Posted as part of a series #NewEventida

ICYMI, earlier posts in this series:



Lisi Whitworth

Sharing takeaways from books, events, gardening, education, life as a wellness warrior, and startup journey at https://Eventida.com - an R&D Lab for inclusion.