This week I was talking to a colleague about a new style that seems to be emerging in the design of icons. You know, those flat coloured icons with the simple flat dark shadow? Yeah, well I took it upon myself to discover how easy it was by re-creating some common social media icons. What I realised when collecting the vectors of various well known brands was that there was an awful lot of brands (particularly web brands) that use variations of the colour blue for their base.
Recognise any of these?
View this project on Behance.
Why is this colour so common among brands? I decided to give it a quick look and this is what I found.
Let me start by saying that I have nothing against the colour blue, nor the logos I found that use it. In fact, I believe the majority of them look quite beautiful. As a UX and UI designer, the colour isn’t foreign to me. I use it constantly to give a sense of neutrality, or gain an audience’s attention without alarming them. And now on with the research.
The way I interpret colour is largely through the way it is interpreted and recognised in everyday life. Colour is used mainly for signage to indicate danger, caution or safety, and to inform. Think traffic lights (stop, caution and go) and those blue signs (I think some are green too) you may see on the highway that inform you of the exits or how far a destination is. Could that be why blue is used, because it is neutral? Perhaps.
Blue is also a prime colour. Could that be part of it? I mean, being a prime colour means that it stands on its own, it is very noticeable and it’s a part of many other colours. That could be it right.
When you delve deeper into the psychology of colour and, in particular, blue the Colour Wheel Pro describes it as being “associated with depth and stability. It symbolises trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.” Gee, those words are everything I want my brand to be. Seems like a no brainer. I’m sold.
But does that mean brands have always predominantly used blue?
When I looked into it, I found a study done by Emblemetric which trends the colours used in brands back to the early 90s. What you see is quite interesting. Blue has barely ever led the race, red has! But it has lost significant ground over the past 20 years. I wonder why? And in particular, why now?
I went back to the psychology of colour and found that “Red is the colour of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.” How interesting. While I would like to associate some of these words, there are some I don’t want anything to do with like war and danger.
This got me thinking. Why is it only now that blue is making a run for the title of most used colour in branding? I thought about what has happened in the past 20 or so years. I know! THE INTERNET! And what else? Ummmmm, SOCIAL MEDIA!
Back in the day companies (in particular large corporate companies) dictated their products to the masses and operated largely behind locked closed doors. In other words, they had a lot more “power” and “strength” on their markets because their consumers had no insight into the companies that were selling to them.
Now with the internet and social media, these large companies are finding it harder to be this way. Users have a powerful tool to spread and share their bad (and good) experiences than they may have had before. Previously these experiences could be swept under the rug and be contained to the few friends and family at a holiday barbecue. So in essence, they are losing power which is a red attribute.
In knowing all that, if I was creating a new product or brand (of which there are thousands), I would want to do my best to give my potential customers the impression that my brand is trustworthy, loyal, confident, intelligent, and truthful and has depth, stability and wisdom.
Wait, what colour would do that? You guessed it! Good old trusty blue.
So in conclusion, as today’s online business landscape matures and adjusts to the way business is done online, businesses are listening and considering their consumers more and more. The direct effect of that is brands make the effort to ensure their brand has the best impression on its audience. Hence blue logos are popping up everywhere. Well, that’s how I see it anyway.
My next question is though, what happens when blue is completely overdone? What’s next…? Green? That guy has always been jealous and envious of red and blue. I bet he wants his day on the podium. ;)
Thanks for reading!
If you liked my post, please let me know. I am always trying to improve.
— Shaun Byrne (@byrnecore)