Professional services firms should discriminate based on colour

A picture does more than paint one thousand words. In the digital era, a picture can be what prompts us to click, read, share and comment.

That’s why imagery is now one of the most important brand elements.

For professional services firms, imagery is the most problematic brand element.

In professional services firms, there are three categories of images.

  1. Corporate photography. This is under control – keeping their corporate headshots up to date is a sector-wide standard.
  2. Hero images. As firms update their websites, many are showing a preference for (WordPress) themes that incorporate images in the headers and backgrounds, and on landing pages.
  3. The ancillary images which are used daily in content marketing endeavours – on blogs, in newsletters, on social media, in collateral and so on.

Very few professional services firms use strong and distinctive brand imagery – imagery which conveys their brand’s personality, makes an emotional connection, and achieves a visual point of difference.

Most professional services firms use the same cliched, generic and free stock images.

It’s same, same and more of the same.  

Colour is a golden opportunity

Applying your corporate colours to your image guidelines is one of the easiest ways to create a unified and distinct visual identity.

Engineering firm Aurecon does this well. Look at Aurecon’s corporate palette and see how those colours are reflected in its illustrations, graphics and photography. Everything is in harmony.

“We see our visual identity as core to our brand and strategy. It’s distinctive, unconventional and playful with serious intent”, explains Global Marketing and Communications Leader, Danielle Bond.

“We don’t look like other engineering firms – intentionally. The visuals – colours, images, illustrations… everything you see is built around our brand strategy and reflects how we are positioning to compete. Our narrative reinforces that message.”

Of course, as a global business, Aurecon no doubt has a significant marketing budget and substantial branding, digital and graphic design resources. But what Aurecon has achieved is not out of reach for much smaller firms.

How to make your mark

Although we work with large, even very large companies, Market Expertise is a small agency. We don’t have the budget for commissioned photography or on staff designers. But that hasn’t prevented us from creating a stand-out visual identity.

In fact, as a brand we punch well above our weight.

Let us walk you through our approach.

First of all, because our corporate colours are vibrant, we adopted vintage photography. Black and white photos complement our bold palette and we love the nostalgia, the juxtaposition, and the drama (not to mention the fashion!).

However, it didn’t take long for us to realise we would need a greater volume – and, perhaps, variety – of images. So we extended our image guidelines to include contemporary black and white photography with a strong slant toward abstract and close-up images.

Our image style is effective not because we chose vintage or black and white photography, but because we’re consistent in our execution.

Additionally, we have taken care to ensure our imagery harmonises with our brand’s personality and voice. Our brand is witty, a little irreverent, sometimes provocative. We love a pun! Our choice of photography is therefore playful, surprising, sometimes even odd – never literal!

We could easily have applied one of our other corporate colours to our photography guidelines. So, too, might we have selected a different style of photography.

Here’s what that might have looked like had we preferred the colour purple.

Vector images

Market Expertise could easily have chosen a different style of imagery such as vector images.

Urban images  

People images

There’s more to colour than meets the eye

Given the volume of images marketers now rely upon, your brand guidelines must provide more than one image style.

That’s why you’ll see that for variety we’ve introduced pops of coloured photography in our advertising and promotions.

Visit the Market Expertise website, and you’ll see that for variety we've introduced pops of coloured photography in our advertising and promotions.

Our guidelines dictate these images be abstract photos or vectors and must be in one of our corporate colours. In this situation, the image is purely decorative, like wallpaper.

In social media, we mostly use colour blocks with our zig zag watermark and iconography. This approach is eye catching, easy to execute, and distinguishable.


In social media, Market Expertise uses colour blocks with a zig zag watermark and iconography to catch the reader's eye.

Discriminating on the basis of colour creates harmony. It’s also neither difficult nor expensive to achieve.

Ultimately, however, whether you adopt this approach or some other:

  1. Be unwaveringly consistent in your execution
  2. Ensure your image style reflects your brand’s personality and voice
  3. Remember, imagery should help your brand to stand out, not blend in
  4. Put your colour decisions in black and white – in your brand guidelines, that is.