Expanding the Color Palate

Note: This post takes a more design-oriented approach. It may be a little off topic for those who don’t design!

After a long day of looking at Catholic school websites, things seem to blur together in terms of design and presentation. It took me a little while to figure out why that is, and it isn’t an obvious thing: the colors.

There are hundreds of thousands of different color combinations out there, but Catholic high schools pretty much stick to a menu:

  • Royal Red
  • Black
  • Tan
  • Various Shades of Green
  • Royal Blue
  • More Royal Red

These are classic, strong colors, and they are used for a reason: they look good, and they look official. But since we are all about breaking the mold at Catholic School Web Design, lets take an experimental journey down the color road less traveled and talk about how to play with color with your school.

Don’t Make the Style Guide Angry

A little bit of a disclaimer before we go any further: we’re not suggesting to go change the colors on your website just for fun. Any stylistic and color changes should always go through the style guide, and then be changed across the board. That means that a color change (even in just an accent color) can be a large undertaking. However, if you are in a position where a refresh is possible and necessary, it could be a good move.

The style guide is there for a reason – so nobody goes playing with the look of materials just for fun. So you may set a bad example if you, oh, let’s say – go playing with the look of materials just for fun.

Keep the School Colors

We’re also not suggesting that the school colors be changed from Royal Blue and Gold to pastel orange and lime green. (Although…hmm…no, it would never work). The colors we’re talking about changing usually have more to do with either sub brands or accent colors. An example of a sub brand would be a capital campaign website, for example.

Stick with what works for your main colors, but around those, you can create an interesting look that even reinforces your primary colors.

Get Some Inspiration

Colors are pretty difficult to think about, and it makes it easier when you’ve got some inspiration. Try something like COLOURlovers Trends section to get the engines going. You can see the final design, and then see the colors that went into that design. It’s a great way to see how the colors you choose dictate certain aspects of a design. Scroll through to see something that catches your eye, and think about how it can be applied to something for your school.

Branch Out From Your Primary Colors

Colors are all related, so it is a good idea to start with your school colors as an anchor point for your

For example, if your primary is a deep, dark purple, we can find some inspiration here in a related color palate. Very interesting green and yellow/gold that could be applied as accent colors in the right context.

Switch from Heavy to Light on a Dark Palate

How about something more common – royal blue. In most cases with royal blue, the site for the school is done very dark with a royal blue background with mostly dark accent pieces.

Now let’s say you are tasked with creating the look for a capital campaign. You could go all royal blue, but in this case it would be much more interesting to invert the light and the dark, and go with a light blue with darker accent colors. For example, light pastel blue background faded into white with royal blue text and school logo/crest.

After experimenting and codifying it in a sub style guide, you have just created a look that will carry through the entire capital campaign that is different but still associated with the main colors of the brand.

Go Brown

Brown goes with anything, and it is a really great color to use as a background because it can be effectively textured (which it should) and layered in a lot of different ways. Chances are your school can fit brown into a sub brand with modified brand marks and it will look fantastic. It doesn’t sound appealing, but give it a try.

Be Adventurous

If you have the opportunity, playing with what colors of your school to create new and interesting mixtures can lead to some really great results. Just a dash of unique color here and there to support to tried and true colors of royal blue and red can make a school look modern and smart. Just give it a try!

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