why so blue?

by schteff.design
March 13, 2018

Powder. Sky. Robin’s Egg. Cornflower. Cyan. Aqua. Turquoise. Cerulean. Lapis. Cobalt. YInMn. Royal. Sapphire. Azure. Indigo. Navy. Peacock. Denim.

And on and on… you get the picture.

In recent weeks, I’ve had multiple discussions that revolved around the use of blue in design. It’s pretty much everywhere. What really stuck out in my mind was how a client will typically gravitate towards blue when there are other viable, equally appropriate, options on the table.

Some astounding numbers

I did a quick search with some very basic terms on blue in design. I was astonished at the number of results from just one popular search engine.

THOUSAND results for "blue logo design"

MILLION results for "blue flyer design"

MILLION results for "blue website design"

Anyone searching for design inspiration by color would quickly become overwhelmed. There’s no way to sort through that many results without more specific search terms or by searching more dedicated sites like:

Looking at my own design portfolio, I was surprised by the amount of blue I have used. A disproportionate amount of student work from my sophomore year of college was designed with Cyan and Lime Green (always together). At least I was consistent.

So it begs the question: Why so blue?

It’s psychological

Psychologically — and culturally — blue is calming and inoffensive. Blue can also portray trustworthiness, dependability, security, and strength. Color intensity can affect perception and interpretation, but blue is a generally acceptable color worldwide. Above all, blue is safe color. It is used heavily in the financial and tech industries.

Check out this great article on Sensational Color for more information and statistics. Here is just part of the article:

Blue is the overwhelming “favorite color.” Blue is seen as trustworthy, dependable, and committed. Blue is the least “gender specific” color, having equal appeal to both men and women. The color of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives. As the collective color of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming. However, not all blues are serene and sedate. Electric or brilliant blues become dynamic and dramatic — an engaging color that expresses exhilaration. Some shades or the overuse of blue may come across as cold or uncaring. Indigo, a deeper blue, symbolizes a mystical borderland of wisdom, self-mastery, and spiritual realization. While blue is the color of communication with others, indigo turns the blue inward to increase personal thought, profound insights, and instant understandings.

Beat the blues

So what do you do when you are working on a new branding project and the client insists on blue — the same boring blue that everyone else seems to be using?

First, nail down the exact blue your client wants. Use your design brief and follow-up sessions to narrow down the mood or imagery the client wants to convey. A fresh, watery aqua will have a different feel from a smoky slate blue. Be specific with your questions and push your client to be specific with their answers. Once you’ve decided the tone of blue, you can start playing with shades and saturation.

Second, be persuasive with your suggestions for secondary colors and usage of those colors. Contrast is where you can start introducing new ideas. While monochromatic contrast deals with light and dark of the same color, playing with the color wheel is where you can have some fun. Were you hoping to include a great shade of purple? Suggest an analogous color scheme. Want to use some strong, punchy colors? Go for a complementary, split-complementary, or tertiary/triadic color scheme. The trick is to keep all of the colors under control and not overpower the core color (blue in this case).

Moodboards are great for this as you can collect random images in your selected colors. It’s easy for the client to review and say yes or no. I personally use private Pinterest boards (and their new sections feature) for informal moodboards. I collect anything and everything related to the brief. Share these boards with your clients and invite them pin as well! It’s important to get them involved — clients can feel a bit out of control during the branding process. This is an easy way to build your relationship with them and work through the design process.

Above all, be thoughtful when selecting your secondary colors and keep their eventual usage in mind. Find interesting ways to include additional colors beyond the logo. Whether you’re designing business cards, flyers, advertising, or websites, there is plenty of opportunity to use your secondary colors to create some truly unique designs.

Portfolio and blog of Stephanie Tortomasi,
Graphic Designer in Metro Detroit, USA

Portfolio and blog of Stephanie Tortomasi, Graphic Designer in Metro Detroit, USA

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