Brand Design10 minute read

How to Choose the Best Colors for Industry Events

Color in industry event design informs, inspires, and builds lasting brand awareness. Discover color strategies that delight attendees and set your event apart.

Toptalauthors are vetted experts in their fields and write on topics in which they have demonstrated experience. All of our content is peer reviewed and validated by Toptal experts in the same field.

Color in industry event design informs, inspires, and builds lasting brand awareness. Discover color strategies that delight attendees and set your event apart.

Toptalauthors are vetted experts in their fields and write on topics in which they have demonstrated experience. All of our content is peer reviewed and validated by Toptal experts in the same field.
Charlotte Miller's profile image

Charlotte Miller

Charlotte has more than 10 years of experience in visual design, UI design, and user research. She excels at creating captivating visuals that delight users and enhance digital and in-person experiences. Her past clients include Virgin Media, Disney Pixar, Nissan, Vauxhall, and Clinique.

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Iyanuoluwa is an experienced brand designer and art director who uses a human-centered approach to create digital experiences. He enjoys finding solutions to design challenges across disciplines, and excels at delivering simple and effective products.
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Akis is a lead product designer and UX/UI designer with 22 years of experience in fintech, healthtech, SaaS, and e-commerce. He has an extensive background creating design systems for enterprise companies and has worked with Sony Pictures, WeWork, Pfizer, Cigna, and Unilever.

Color is a persuasive design element that affects every aspect of an industry event’s branding—from logos and promotion to signage and swag bags. An effective color palette establishes an event’s theme, supports wayfinding, and creates a memorable brand experience. Color communicates meaning to attendees, and the following strategies can help you craft color combinations that align with an event’s goals.

How Color Informs and Inspires Industry Event Attendees

Color relays overt and subliminal cues about an event’s purpose and location. It shapes the way attendees—both online and in-person—remember their experience.

Color Conveys Mood and Promotes Familiarity

Brand designer Iyanuoluwa Ademade says color can evoke emotions that connect a consumer to a brand. Blue, for example, conjures feelings of tranquility and is often associated with stability and success, which is why many banks incorporate it in their branding, he says. But the psychological impact of a color isn’t fixed. A color can convey different moods depending on its paired colors: “In industry events, such as trade shows, blue is often paired with red and black to express energy, strength, and technological advancement,” Ademade says.

Color can also help build familiarity. An event’s attendees will interact with its visual identity—typography, iconography, imagery, and logos—at numerous touchpoints. Color influences the messages these design elements convey, and when used consistently, it reinforces brand recognition.

I was commissioned to design a logo for Legalweek 2022, a legal technology conference. The goal was to generate excitement, build brand trust, and create a visual that could be referenced and repurposed across the event’s digital and print touchpoints. To achieve this, I chose vibrant pink and bright blue as the brand’s signature colors. Pink captured the energy of the evolving legal field, while blue was intended to convey a sense of trust.

The new logo and logotype designs for Legalweek and associated domains. The logo consists of interconnected triangles with different blends of blue and pink.
Legalweek’s signature colors were used to instill trust and reflect the new energy permeating the legal industry.

Color Captures Attention Online

When creating color schemes for industry events, you might be inclined to think “on-site” first. While it’s necessary to consider how color affects an event space, don’t overlook the fact that colors will first be used in online promotion and can play a crucial role in event turnout.

Pairing primary colors with simple geometric shapes is a visually striking technique that’s popular in social media posts designed to highlight important information, such as product sales and announcements. On event websites, color blocking is a great way to attract attention to calls to action. By limiting a site’s palette to two or three harmonious colors and blocking out a large section with a single color, you can emphasize specific UI components, such as the event’s “Sign up” button.

In my designs for the online promotion of another legal event series, the General Counsel conferences, I used warm, attention-grabbing colors to highlight key information, such as dates and attendance numbers.

Six images of online promotional content and templates for the General Counsel conferences.
Bold tones are used to convey action and build pre-event hype in these concepts for online promotional images for the General Counsel Conferences.

Color can also act as a thematic bridge between an industry event’s online marketing and on-site activities. For example, before an event, a distinct color can be used in online graphics promoting a highly anticipated speaker. Then, when it’s time for the speaker’s presentation, the same promotional color can be used in lighting, stage graphics, and the speaker’s slides.

Color Makes Wayfinding More Intuitive

Color creates visual hierarchy and makes people take action. In event wayfinding, color directs attendees to the right information, and enhances their understanding of the event space. For instance, designers can use colored floor graphics to create implied paths that point attendees to registration lines. Designers can also help orient attendees by using color to create landmarks, demarcate floor levels, and segment large spaces into zones.

In my work for Legalweek, I designed hanging banners featuring the event’s speakers. I emphasized the speakers’ names and presentation dates by framing them with bright pink and blue lines that popped against a navy background. I also incorporated large black-and-white photos of the speakers, so as not to interfere with the pink-and-blue palettes. The purpose of the banners was to help attendees find their bearings in the event space.

Two Legalweek hanging banner mock-ups, each presenting an event speaker, their name and title, and the event date.
The color in these mock-up banners helps attendees identify important information and orient themselves in the event space.

Color Leaves a Lasting Impression

Swag helps attendees remember an event, and using an event’s color palette in giveaway items extends the reach of event branding. Moreover, you can diversify your swag items by subtly varying the event colors used in their design, allowing attendees to select their favorite combinations. People are far more likely to use an item they’ve selected personally, and the more your swag is in use, the more exposure your brand will get.

For Legalweek, I used pink and blue to tie the giveaways back to the event itself but incorporated subtle variations in shade to give the swag a customized feel.

Examples of post-engagement promotional materials for Legalweek, including sticky notes, a lanyard, brochures, and stationery, in the event's signature pink and/or blue hues.
Using subtle variations of brand colors gives swag items a custom feel that makes them appear high end, enhancing the brand’s reputation.

How to Pick the Right Colors for an Industry Event

There are three areas to consider when selecting colors for an industry event: design intent, color combinations, and color refinement.

Determine Your Design Intent

The colors you choose set the tone for an event. Dark, cool colors, such as black or navy, create a sophisticated feel, whereas bright, warm colors, like yellow and orange, stimulate a high-energy atmosphere of anticipation and enthusiasm.

The color of lighting also has a significant impact. Soft and diffuse uplighting can communicate a sense of allure and add intrigue, which is why it’s often used in product launches. For events with keynotes and speakers, you can use wash lighting to fill a space with color that conveys a theme or mood.

If an event’s goal is to make a brand statement, use the brand’s color palette at every touchpoint. And if the brand has a signature color, consider making it the most prominent visual element in all digital and printed collateral.

Two circles that represent color wheels. Warm colors are in the circle on the left, and cool colors are in the one on the right.
Warm colors create a cheerful atmosphere at events, whereas cool colors exude professionalism.

Combine Colors Thoughtfully

“Context in color matters,” UX/UI designer Akis Apostoliadis says. “How you combine color affects people’s perceptions of your brand.” Certain colors can be mixed and matched to create color harmony and contribute to an enjoyable experience at industry events.

Apostoliadis explains that high-contrast color combinations highlight important visual elements and place secondary information in the background. He cautions, however, that some combinations, such as red and green, can confuse people who are colorblind.

Analogous combinations, such as blue, teal, and green, have a calming effect, Apostoliadis says. There is limited contrast in these palettes, and they are usually consistently warm or cool.

A monochromatic color scheme can be used to create dramatic compositions that are uncluttered and pleasing to the eye. This minimalist approach is often used in tradeshow booth graphics to spotlight important content, such as text and illustrations.

For General Counsel, I used complementary and analogous colors to distinguish the three conferences held in Australia, Chicago, and New York. Reddish-orange and forest green are complementary colors that help differentiate one US event from the other. Golden yellow stands analogous to those colors, creating cohesion and unity when the events are presented together.

Event logos for the three General Counsel conferences: Australia (with a golden yellow background), Midwest (red-orange), and East (forest green).
Complementary and analogous colors can be used for multiple events under one brand.

Fine-tune and Test Your Color Scheme

In addition to combining the right colors, designers must consider the subtleties of contrast, hue, tint, tone, shade, and temperature to maximize readability and accessibility at industry events.

For instance, placing two hues with low value contrast (like orange and green) next to each other can make copy hard to read. Alternatively, a 4.5:1 ratio between the foreground color (informative text in an event banner, for example) and the background color will help attendees with moderate visual impairments distinguish the colors.

Testing your event visuals, including your color palette, ensures that you have made effective design choices that contribute to a positive experience for attendees. Nielsen Norman Group offers a number of best practices for testing visual designs. These include having people compare multiple variations of a design or conducting five-second tests to gauge their gut reactions.

Asking questions is another effective way to measure responses to a design. Open-ended questions are useful for learning about an audience’s expectations because they require test participants to explain why they like or dislike a design. Controlled questions, such as choosing descriptors from a list of terms, can help you identify how specific brand attributes are perceived by the audience.

Choosing Color for Industry Events: Takeaways

There are endless opportunities to use color effectively in industry event design deliverables. Picking the right colors starts with determining both your design intent and what you want your color scheme to convey. As you learn more about color fundamentals—such as contrast, tint, and shade—and practice assembling appealing color combinations, you will sharpen your ability to make smart color choices. Using color effectively can improve marketing for your event and drive attendance, clarify session details and locations, and keep your event top of mind long after it has ended.

Further Reading on the Toptal Design Blog:

Understanding the basics

  • What is event branding?

    Event branding is the visual messaging that conveys the objective of an event. These design elements include event logos, color palettes, imagery, signage, and wayfinding.

  • Why is branding your event important?

    Events build brand loyalty, and visual branding is an effective way to convey an event’s purpose at every attendee touchpoint, from invitations and registrations, to confirmation and thank-you emails.

  • How does color affect branding?

    Colors directly affect how event attendees perceive your brand. Strategic use of color can help you build a strong brand image that connects with attendees’ emotions and spurs them to action.

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Charlotte Miller's profile image
Charlotte Miller

Located in Stamford, United Kingdom

Member since April 15, 2021

About the author

Toptalauthors are vetted experts in their fields and write on topics in which they have demonstrated experience. All of our content is peer reviewed and validated by Toptal experts in the same field.

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