A Comprehensive Guide to Colour Theory and Colour Psychology

This post is a comprehensive breakdown on colour theory. Pulled together from the web, we feel this is the best guide out there. Enjoy!

  1. Colour Wheel
  2. Hue, saturation, and brightness
  3. Colour Combinations/Harmonies
  4. Colour Context
  5. Colour Psychology

What is the Colour Wheel?

Colour theory starts with the colour wheel which was invented by Isaac Newton 1666. It’s kind of what it sounds like, a wheel of colour. What you can do with this wheel is both an art and a science and can be used to find out what colours work well together in theory. Understanding this together with the emotions they convey is crucial if you are building a brand.

The two types of colour wheels in colour theory are RGB and RYB (CMYK). CMYK is useful for artists as mixing colours uses subtractive colour mixing model and it’s used on anything physical like posters and paper. RGB is what you are looking at now and used by mixing light – additive colour mixing model.

A colour wheel is made up of twelve colours (red, orange, yellow, chartreuse green, green, spring green, cyan, azure, blue, violet, magenta and rose) and can be divided into three different colour groups.

Image result for colour wheel
Colour wheel

The 3 Primary Colours

Primary colours are Red, Yellow and Blue and these colours can be mixed together to create white. Three pigment colours that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colours and all other colours are derived from these 3 hues.

Primary colours

The 3 Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are a result of mixing two primary colours together. When using subtractive and the RYB colour wheel you will get purple (red mixed with blue), orange (red mixed with yellow), and green (yellow mixed with blue). The classics.

Secondary Colours

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are created by mixing a secondary colour with a primary these are orange, chartreuse green, spring green, azure, violet and rose.

In the RYB color wheel, the tertiary colors are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

Tertiary colours in RYB colour wheel

Warm and Cool Colours in the Colour Wheel

The colour wheel can be divided to create warm or cool colours (temperature). In colour theory, warm colors (red through to yellow) are said to bring to mind happiness, optimism and energy, while cool colors (blue to green and purple) are associated with serenity and isolation.

Warm & cold colours

Introducing Hue, Saturation and Brightness

HSB (or HSL) stands for Hue, Saturation (Chroma) and Brightness (Luminosity). Hue is the actual colour on the colour wheel. Brightness refers to how much white (or black) is mixed in the colour while Saturation indicates the amount of grey or purity in a colour. We can also use this same concept to similarly describe…

Shade, Tint and Tone

Shade is created when you add black to the base hue. This darkens the colour and tend to be richer, darker and often more intense than the original hue.

Tint is created when you add white to the base hue. This makes it lighter and desaturates the hue and makes it less intense but also makes colours calmer and quiet.

When you add both black and white (grey) to a base hue, this is known as Tone. They appear less saturated or intense and often more closely resemble real-life colour.

Shade, tints, tones
Shade/tint/tone

Useful Colour Combinations/Harmonies

Now with the colour wheel out the way, let’s talk about how we can use colour theory to find harmonious colours.

Complimentary

Complimentary colours are colours that exist at opposite ends of the colour wheel. These colours are high impact, vibrant and contrast with each other very well. They must be used carefully so they are not jarring. Contrasting colours can help imagery pop and are a good idea for logos or identities but are not advisable for text and typography.

Complimentary colours

Monochromatic

Monochromatic colours are three shades – tones and tints of one base hue. They are a much more subtle colour combination and can feel calm and harmonious when used.

Monochromatic

Analogous

Three colours that are side by side on the colour wheel are called analogous and are often found in nature. These colours have a high impact but should be used wisely as they can be overpowering. You should use one dominant colour from this selection while the other two should be used as accents. Analogous colours can be used effectively on websites as it can draw the eye so that a user knows where to take action.

Triadic

Triadic colours are three colours that are evenly spaced on the colour wheel and are bright and dynamic. They can create contrast and harmony simultaneously so can be very effective but once again, let one of these colours dominate and use the others as accents.

Triadic colours

Rectangle (Tetradic)

Tetradic colours are four colours evenly spaced on the colour wheel with two complimentary squares (Double-Complementary Relationship). They are quite bold and can offer a lot of variations. Letting one colour remain dominant is key here. You should be aware of cold and warm colours so that correct grouping can be established.

Tetradic colours

What is Colour Context

Another key thing to note is how colours behave in relation to others. Two of the same colours used in slightly different ways can create different contrasting effects and this is called simultaneous contrast. This is at its most powerful when the colours are complementary colours. Michel Chevreul studied the idea that an object of any given colour will cast a shadow tinged with that of its complementary colour and there are several effects of colour context.

Lightness

The most drastic and obvious effect of simultaneous contrast is the apparent shift in brightness. If you take two squares of the same hue and surround it with a lighter or darker shade, the square surrounded by the darker shade will appear lighter and the square surrounded by the lighter shade will appear darker.

color shift in a simultaneous lightness contrast, all large and small squares have the same hue and chroma

Chroma

Similarly, chroma can apparently be affected by having two squares of the same hue surrounded by a desaturated and an increased saturation of that hue. The colour on the right seems duller against the high contrast and reversely the colour on the left seems extreme opposite. This is because value and chroma are often confused in colour perception.

all large and small squares have the same hue and lightness

Crispening Effect

Crispening effect is the apparent shift in the contrast between two colours of similar lightness while surrounded by a colour of a different colour lightness.

the crispening effect

Colour context source: http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/color_context.htm

Colour Psychology and Its Affect On Us

Colour can play to our stereotypical view of the world and the way we understand it. Given this, we can take a look at the different colours and what they could mean to an observer of your brand. Colour psychology can be split up into warm, cool and neutral colours.

These explanations are very subjective though and it can vary because of someones past experiences or cultural differences so take with a pinch of salt and do your research.

Warm Colours

Warm colours often evoke feelings of happiness, optimism and energy however, yellow and orange can also slightly irritate the eyes and red can increase a person’s appetite.

Red

Red is warm and dynamic and can (apparently) invoke hunger. It can also be associated with passion, love, anger and danger. Red is playful, modern and exciting but used as an accent as it can be quite tiring to look at.

Orange

Orange can be associated with happiness. It still has elements of energy and is playful but is not overpowering like red.

Headspace is a meditation app and uses the vitality and hapiness of orange in their logo

Yellow

Happiness, friendship, energy and hope. A brand using yellow gives a sense of optimism and cheerfulness but a word of warning it can also be tiring to look at so use sparingly.

Image result for biotech logo
Aranya logo gives a sense of happiness and optimism

Cool Colours

Cool colours are usually calming and soothing but can also express sadness and are often chosen by health and security sectors.

Green

Green is, of course, associated with wealth, nature and health. It’s also very easy on the eyes and because of its association with nature, green can depict growth, prosperity and safety.

Image result for biotech logo
Cannasphere uses green for its obvious natural conotations

Blue

Blue apparently induces chemical reactions in the body that are calming so is great for calm and spiritual brands. Dark blues feel more corporate and professional but can also feel cold while light blue is relaxed and friendly. Blue is said to be trustworthy and mature.

Image result for biotech logo
Nascent are focused on the development and delivery of human antibodies and cytokine responses for the treatment of cancer

Purple

Purple can be associated with royalty, wealth, sophistication and authority. It can be soothing and calming being a colder colour but is also perceived to be luxurious. It’s also commonly associated with mystery and romance and it’s also not overly feminine.

Neutral Colours

Neutral colours work great as background colours and include black, grey, white, tan and brown.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article about colour theory. It was originally part of this article what colour to use for you biotech branding but was broken out for readability. If you want to know more, check that out.

How to stand out – 13 tips to building an awesome tech brand [updated for 2020]

We’re about to discuss how you can start building an awesome tech brand that stands out in the industry. Let’s start by addressing some common misconceptions about what a brand actually is.

If you’re interested in reading why branding is essential as a tech startup, check out our recent article on that.

  1. Understanding What is “Brand”
  2. Positioning
  3. Your Cause
  4. Your Values
  5. Develop User Personas
  6. Logo
  7. Name
  8. Colour
  9. Typography
  10. Tone-of-voice
  11. Photography
  12. Website
  13. Graphical elements
  14. Next Steps

The Groundwork

Understanding What is “Brand”

The word ‘brand’ was derived from farmers marking their cattle with a logo or trademark so that they would be recognised as their own. From this, you might infer that your logo or trademark is synonymous with your brand but this isn’t really the case these days.

The word brand has evolved into something far more intangible than that. Your brand is what’s described by the great Marty Neumeier as, “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation.”. This translates as any touchpoint your customer has with your services that convey an idea, feeling or promise to them.

Your brand includes your logo but also your customer service, the way you answer the phone, the design of your website and even where you position yourself in the market! At any point your customer comes into contact with you is an opportunity to convey a consistent and relevant image of who you are and what you stand for. In the same way, your brand should be easily identifiable but as you’ll learn, being identifiable is the sum of many attributes. If you’re interested to learn more, we speak about this in our blog post about what Brand Strategy is.

So given this, how do you start to build your tech brand? Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we follow a tried and tested process that enables us to understand your unique proposition, even if you don’t quite know what that is yet.

Positioning

If you’re speaking to everyone then, unfortunately, you’re speaking to no one. Understanding your place in the market not only allows you to hone in on your understanding of your brand, but it also makes good business sense as you’re the one person to go to for that specific problem. If they recognise you as the industry leader then you will become the business to approach for that particular problem. There are many types of positioning strategies that you can employ.

Types of Positioning Strategies for your tech brand

  • Product features/benefits
  • Price
  • Quality

Features/Benefits

You may wish to position yourself based on your features or benefits. If you’re a service it may be the services you offer. Although this should play a part in your tech brand positioning, we wouldn’t recommend this as the chances you are offering something completely new are relatively low.

Price

Price is another way you can segment yourself. High price often portrays high quality, notice I say “portrays” – just because you offer a high priced product doesn’t necessarily equate to high quality. There are examples where this tactic works but it’s a risky game to play. It’s not just your product that should deliver but everything around it should warrant that high price. With a high price comes high expectations.

Quality

Similarly to price, there are certain associations that come with positioning yourselves based on quality, but once again this doesn’t necessarily mean high quality, high price. As technology becomes faster and less expensive organisations are able to offer great quality at low prices.

An exercise you might like to run is to map out your competitors on a chart and where they sit on the price/quality spectrum. The chart may look something like this…

If you’re at the beginning of your journey, this is a great place to start but in some cases, this might call for a reposition. There have been cases of very successful reposition by tech brands through developments in the marketplace or an intentional shift into a new market. Repositioning should forever be a consideration for any business looking to lead in the market. This requires listening and being aware of shifts and developments and having a proactive rather than reactive mindset.

Understanding your position in the market

Understanding your position in the market via your offering is one small part to consider. At Jupiter and the Giraffe we’re big advocates of the Onliness Statement (once again developed by Marty Neumeier). The Onliness Statement gets you to not only think about what it is you do but also why you do it. We wrote a blog post about what an Onliness Statment is so we wont repeat ourselves, but essentially it looks like this;

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

For context, Harley Davidsons is as follows…

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

You must fill in the blanks but as you can see there are several areas that drill further and further into your niche. This represents your promise to your customers. Your tech brand should live and breath this promise with every touchpoint going forward and will likely play a key role when we get to actually creating your brand assets. This is a great exercise in further understanding your position in the market. Pay close attention to the “Underlying trend” as this helps you clarify your purpose.

We developed a FREE tool you can use to create your own onliness statement here.

Your Cause

People are much more socially aware nowadays and your brand needs to reflect this. This is why you need to ask why your brand exists and what do you contribute to society. This is bigger than just providing you product or service, it needs to serve a bigger purpose. Luckily, we’ve written a whole article on this. Why Do You Matter? The Cause Branding.

Your Values

Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we have only 3 values as we want them to remain concise, clear and easy to follow. They are Creative, Inspiring, Impactful. Creative – because we want to be known for not only building practical web apps but also beautiful. Inspiring – because we want the work we do to inspire others to do things even better than before and to push humanity forward and finally impactful. We want the work we do to have an impact on the world, not only in the way we execute but the product itself needs to serve a higher purpose.

Choose 3 – 5 words which you can live by and keep you on track and inspired

Patagonia’s values

Develop User Personas

With all that done, you should have a strong idea about who you are and why you do what you do. Next, you must begin to think about your customers as after all, without your customers your business will fail.

Why user personas?

The reason why you need to think about your customers when it comes to your tech brand is down to relatability. You need to understand your users so that you are able to engage with them in a way that they can understand. Use the same tone-of-voice that they might expect whilst solving any problems they might have.

Having user personas also gives you a person (albeit make-believe) to resolve all conflicts that may arise between you and your colleagues around a decision, design choice or feature of your tech brand. Resolving the conflict by asking what would X want, instead of what do we want. The way we do this is developing user personas. If you’ve never heard of a user persona before then quite simply it’s a make-believe person that represents a customer (or a desired customer). Personas can be based on your real customers if you have them and one persona can contain many attributes of different customers. It’s ok to generalise here but the result should be specific and represent one user.

If you find that you’re not targeting the right customers (another reason for a rebrand) then we believe it’s useful to create a single person based on a customer that you would like to be serving. You may even want to conduct actual market research to generate these user persona’s if you don’t already have a customer base. User Personas are most effective when they’re derived from real data so if you have it, use it.

The most important aspect of these personas should be the problems or pain-points that they are experiencing. This is key to making sure you’re serving that customer for a specific reason.

How many personas should I create?

The number of user personas you create really shouldn’t exceed four. Beyond this, you start to lose clarity and focus and your tech brand will end up appealing to no one. Your user persona should, of course, contain a name. Use a photo of someone you feel best encapsulates the person in your mind so that you can bring this person to life. You can then look at the demographic of your customer – age, sex, where they are from, how much they earn, what they do for a living. You can even find this data out on Google Analytics if you have it installed on your website!

Make a note of their archetype e.g. “Messy creative” or “Neat and tidy musician”. If you’re struggling to be creative then definitely check out the most common archetypes. You can then look at their personalities. This helps us make assumptions about how they might react in different scenarios. Go into as much depth as you feel is necessary.

Brand Assets/Identity

With all that said, that’s just the groundwork to developing your tech brand. It’s important to know who you are, why you are different, who you serve and why you serve them. Understanding your promise and the values you hold is essentially your brand, just make sure you stick to this idea no matter what. We’re now going to talk about what we believe every new business should have. These are known as ‘brand assets’ and are what are typically confused as a brand. Your brand identity is the face of your business and should reinforce the values and emotions that you identified in the previous steps.

Logo

No surprise here, you need a logo and for us, a good logo is one that addresses more than representing what you do. Your logo should be a manifestation as to the why you do what you do. For example, having a cloud computing business called “Cloud9” and your logo being nine clouds may look great (it won’t, nine is way too many clouds) but this shows that not much thought has gone into your logo and is a missed opportunity to connect with the right audience and create a logo with depth. On a piece of paper, start jotting down words that come to mind when you think about your business. Try and think about your values and words that represent these values. It’s ok to think about what you do but the aim is to keep it abstract. We go in-depth about how to design a logo in another post.

Name

Name?! Yes, name! Once again, your name is a touchpoint with your customer. Why not take all that we have learned from discussing your business, your customers and your values and come up with a name that reflects that. It’s always fascinating when you discover the story behind the name and when there’s more than meets the eye. Coming up with a name can be an artform in itself so take that time to really think about it.

Colour

Colours invoke emotion so play on colour psychology. We’ve written a post about colour psychology. It’s not always the same on every continent so be conscious of your market and use colours that represent your values and make sure they mean the right things in the right regions. Have at least two colours. One primary that you’ll use almost everywhere and a secondary that compliments it.

Use a tool like Adobe Colour to help you figure out what colours work well together. Note down the HEX value, RGB and, if possible the Pantone and make sure that these are the only colours used whenever you create anything. There’s nothing worse than seeing 15 different shades of blue. Here’s Jupiter and the Giraffe’s Colour Palette:

Jupiter and the Giraffe’s Colour Palette

Typography

Typography is important too and you’ll want to have at least two typographic families or variants for maximum flexibility. The first is typically used for headers and possibly makes an appearance in the logo (look at Jupiter and the Giraffes “KG Summertime Storm” font) the other main font is for generic body copy. You’ll want something that is easily legible.

There are some examples where the font looks pretty but is impossible to read. Don’t make this same mistake and ask people if they can read your font. Broadly, fonts can invoke meaning.

You might consider serif (fonts with little feet at the ends of the letters) as formal. Legal businesses or banks may choose to use this font. Sans-serif fonts (without ‘feet’) are more modern. If you’re at the stage where you’re putting your own tech brand together, go for a font that you like or check out some recommended font pairings from sites such as Google fonts. Large organisations often design their own fonts and obviously, this is out of reach for most businesses starting out as it’s expensive.

There are situations where you may need more fonts but don’t overcomplicate things at this stage and only use two at one time. Just be warned, there’s no escaping the rabbit hole that is choosing a font!

Tone-of-voice

Finally, one thing very few businesses think about when they first start their company is their tone-of-voice. Think about it, groups of friends often use the same words and speak in a similar way so your business should also speak in a way that your customers find relatable. Your tone should further imply the values of your brand and what you say should be understood by the right people. Make your employees aware so that when they are engaging with potential clients, they are speaking in this same way too.

Tone-of-voice is where your tech brands personality shines. It’s where you’re really engaging with your customers and not just any customers, the right customers. Think of three words that best summarise your business if it was a person and use these to develop your tone.

Next steps

So we’ve breezed over how a company starting out can create it’s brand and start to develop its bare-minimum brand identity. We hope to release many more in-depth articles on the individual assets so look out for those but this should be enough to get you going.

A few more helpful things you could work on as a next step that equally portray your brand are…

Photography

Choose the photos you use wisely. This is an often overlooked aspect of your brand. What should be the subject of your photos? Should there be people in your photo? What are they wearing? Showing images of the people you expect to use your product is a great, easy way for people to feel affiliated with your brand. Also you may think more creatively and think of the style of the photography. The treatment of your photography should be the same in order to create consistency.

Website

Every business needs a website. It’s the shop window to your product or service. Here, your brand assets will exist throughout the design of your site alongside any photography and the tone of voice you’ve established. Your website should encapsulate almost everything about your brand so don’t let this slip. Templates are great to get you started but when your brand evolves its important to move onto something more bespoke. Contact us if you’re in the market for a website.

Graphical elements

Graphic elements can be as small or large as you deem fit. Little flourishes peppered throughout your design is a great way to identify your brand. Think of these like a birth mark that is unmistakably yours and have fun with them! Maybe this is something taken from your logo or something different entirely but make it relevant.

Wrap up

So there we are, you’ve just had a crash course in what a brand actually is and what it isn’t. Understanding your business and how it’s different, identifying the promise it’s making to its customers and having that shine through makes up your brand identity. Invest in the time to think about your brand assets and make them more meaningful than just something that reflects what you do – make it something about why you do what you do. We capture all the necessary elements in our Brand Strategy workshop which enables us to create an amazing brand. You can read more about what brand strategy is in our blog.

OnlinessStatementGenerator.com and what all the fuss is about

Onliness isn’t even a real word. It was coined by the great Marty Neumeier in his book Zag. Although not the godfather of what the onliness statement tool is used for (that was done by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves) he certainly helped it reach the masses. Originally, Rosser described a “Unique Selling Proposition” or USP as a differentiation characteristic of your brand in the marketplace. It’s one of the most important strategic actions one can take when starting a business or building a product and is a key element to building a brand.

Marty takes Rossers idea further in his Onliness Statement by getting us to figure out the “Big Idea” behind our product or service. He also encapsulates the what, how, who, where, why and when of your business cutting through the noise in the market and positioning you well. The Onliness Statement acts as a decision filter for all future encounters and to ultimately remain on brand. Reaching a fork in the road is a simple case of referring to your Onliness Statement to figure out if this aligns with your goal as a business.

So what is the Onliness Statement?

You fill in the blanks…

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

Here are some examples:

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

Jupiter and the Giraffe is THE ONLY branding agency
THAT brings ambitious and interesting global brand thinking
FOR young, creative entrepreneurs
IN and around Planet Earth
WHO want to demonstrate their uniqueness
DURING an era of boring sameness

You can really see that you’re not only challenged to think of HOW your product is different but also WHY it’s different.

So have a go yourself. It only takes a few moments. There may be some tasks you need to undertake to fill it in which may make it longer (such as your target market) but it will ultimately be a very powerful tool.

Luckily, We’ve built a tool to help you over at OnlinessStatementGenerator.com. We hope this helps streamline the process.


Bring strategic thinking to your brand

Jupiter and the Giraffe describe themselves as a brand strategy and design agency, but what does this mean? More specifically the term “agency” and how does it differ to freelancers?

You can find freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites are a great place to find creatives and technical individuals to help you build what you want. Want a new logo? Someone on Fiverr will create you one for your up and coming business. Need a new website? Upwork’s got you covered. Although you may get exactly what you’re looking for, there’s one huge thing that individuals behind the computer screen lack. Strategic thinking.

I’m not calling these creatives stupid and it’s not that these people can’t think, it’s that they don’t need to in this context. It’s just not what they are getting paid to do. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are all about getting work done for cheap but what’s the cost? Freelancers thrive as individuals on these platforms because a freelancer can be a cog in a machine. There’s normally someone above them like an analyst or a creative lead that tells them exactly what to create. The huge thing missing here though is “why” they are creating something and some creatives are happy not knowing the why. Just tell them what to do and they’ll do it. This is great if you have an idea for a logo in your head and can picture bits of it but need a whizz at Photoshop to polish it up for you and refine a few creative decisions around your concept.

The problem here though is that there is no purpose or meaning to their ideas. As much as you might think creative assets like this need to look cool, there’s much more below the surface. It all starts with business goals and what you want to achieve as a company. More specifically, what is your brand and your company’s values. It’s great that you have an idea for a logo but to really get the most out of it, it needs to speak to the right people and ultimately convert from prospects to customers.

I won’t knock these websites. It’s so important to get your idea up there and testing assumptions on real people and so paying for a logo or website shouldn’t be at the top of your list, but when you start to make money and your idea becomes more refined and clear, it’s time you start to look at how you can target the right customer and speak to them in the right way.

It is possible for a freelancer to extract this information from you but that’s about it when it comes to a freelancer. It doesn’t end there for an agency. It’s really up to an agency to question your motives behind your design choices (if you have them) and actually create a strategy to execute that all falls in line with your business goals. We build your brand and define your strategy before we even touch design or development. We actually call this service Strategy. After the initial strategy session, we may then conduct a set of discovery workshops to further dig into your challenges and pain-points to develop our “why” when it comes to execution. You can read more about brand strategy in this blog.

When it finally comes to design or development – we’ve thought long and hard about what problems we are trying to solve – who your audience is and what appeals to them; how we speak to them; how do they typically engage with you; what they are looking to get out of you and the many ways they would look to do that. Only then is this likely to actually have a financial and beneficial impact on your business. We think. We measure twice and cut once, as the old saying goes.

I often ask what role is more important to the client – An amazing conductor (strategist) of mediocre creatives or a mediocre conductor and amazing creatives. Often they pick the former.

So if you’re ready for the next step, or you believe you’re just not speaking to the right people or you need to speak to a new set of people, then get in touch with us and lets do something awesome together.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Zeplin – A Developers Perspective

In my time helping Talk Talk Group build their CMS and front-end capabilities, I worked closely with their design and UX team. They introduced me to Zeplin. Zeplin is a tool we use heavily at Jupiter and the Giraffe and it’s essential in building pixel-perfect websites by allowing us to see exact HEX codes or pixel dimensions in our designs amongst many other things. Although primarily used by designers, developers can benefit immensely from it and I hope I can shed some light on how I use it.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple website projects within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on the go at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig into those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins — with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and I’m part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the many little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel, I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that bad boy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you to inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem just came out of BETA so great news all-round.

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well-organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to check out my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwardscoming in 2019.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple websites within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig in to those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins – with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

zeplin dimensions
Highlighting one element and hovering another unleases more capability!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and being part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS that is widely supported in terms of browser support. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that badboy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem is in BETA so expect more from this soon!

Zeplin extensions

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

Export assets

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to checkout my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwards coming in 2019.