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Looking at the first page of the most successful Web-based startups of the last 10 years (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), we see the extensive usage of the color blue. In terms of the graphic design, is there any technical meaning behind the color blue (e.g., social interaction, trust, 'coolness')?; or is it just a coincidence?

  • Blue is the colour of the mind, calmness, intelligence and coolness. And besides, it's a large part of all humans' favourite colour. – Vincent Feb 16 '15 at 15:27
  • Interesting question. I remember hearing people in the '00s (pre-smartphones) suggest that blue is a good choice for social sites where your target audience would rather be outdoors under a blue sky with their friends rather than stuck indoors in front of a computer... but that's pretty speculative. – user568458 Feb 16 '15 at 15:34
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    @Vincent I've never before heard Facebook and Instagram associated with "the mind, calmness, intelligence and coolness"... you must have a better calibre of friends than I do! :-) But yes, I'm sure these were qualities the site creators were hoping their users would express... – user568458 Feb 16 '15 at 15:35
  • Another factor is that the color is trendy – Zach Saucier Feb 16 '15 at 16:02
  • @ZachSaucier Don't you think 10 years is too long for a trent to stay? – o-0 Feb 16 '15 at 16:56
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According to Google, blue is:

Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body.

All good things, and generally things that companies want to be associated with. Here is a neat article that's asking the exact question as you. Why do so many brands use Blue as their base colour?

The article looks at a study done by Emblemetric that traced the colors used in brands since the 90's. The study found that red had the lead in "most used color" until recently (about 2005), when blue overtook it. The author notes that while red denotes "passion and love", it also denotes "war and danger", things that social media (and other internet based companies) companies want to avoid.

Denoting power was something that companies wanted to do in the 90's to make people want their stocks. They largely ran operations behind closed doors, which was all well and good up until the internet came around. Now people could share the horror stories and companies can't sweep these reports under the rug. They're losing power, which is a red attribute. Now companies would rather show trustworthiness, loyalty, confidence, intelligence, truthfulness, stability and wisdom, all blue traits.

The internet is forcing new, more honest traits on companies, and the companies want to denote these traits to their customers as much as possible. Which is why so many of them are using blue as a base color.

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    What colors 'represent' is mostly bullshit. It sounds good, and can help 'sell' a logo in a client meeting, but almost every color can be found to have almost every meaning in some context. – DA01 Feb 16 '15 at 19:36
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    Also, I have to -1 for "the internet is forcing new, more honest traits on companies". I can't buy into that at all. :) – DA01 Feb 16 '15 at 19:37
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    @DA01 It's not bullshit as long as these associations aren't presented as some kind of metaphysical truth. Researchers simply went out and studied the associations that people already have with colors, and there are designers who specialize in applying that knowledge. – Kevin Krumwiede Feb 17 '15 at 5:22
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    @DA01 I disagree. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_psychology#Brand_meaning – Vincent Feb 17 '15 at 10:40
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    @KevinKrumwiede No, you cannot scientifically study peoples' opinions. There is nothing falsifiable about an individual's subjective opinion outside of the truth values of factual statements subsumed by that opinion. – K. Alan Bates Feb 17 '15 at 21:02
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It's a reflection that a lot of logos are blue is all. Blues and Reds tend to be the popular colors these days. And, really, they've been popular colors for logos for a long time.

enter image description here

In addition, I'm not sure what you define as a successful web startup, but note that today's startup world is mostly a bunch of people pumping out as many ideas as they can as fast as they can hoping one of them sticks. There's not necessarily a ton of thought going into these brands identities out of the gate. A lot of it is 'copy the last successful idea and then move on to the next'.

I'm not saying there's plagiarism or anything like that, but there's not likely a whole lot of 'color psychology' involved. It's more likely "Blue? Blue is nice. Sure, go with that. Done."

  • Even if it’s not part of the design intention, color psychology can still be part of what determines which logos are more effective, and hence which brands tend to succeed. – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Feb 17 '15 at 15:50
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Can't speak for your other two examples, but according to a New Yorker article written in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg chose blue for Facebook not for any technical meaning or symbolism in the color but because he is red-green colorblind, and as he said in that article, “Blue is the richest color for me; I can see all of blue.”

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    This is a pretty good answer. Most logos are chosen simply because it's someone's favorite color. In fact, the better logos (not saying Facebook is in that group) can work with almost any color. Picking a particular color just ads to the brand cohesiveness. – DA01 Feb 16 '15 at 19:39
  • Pretty sure that it answers the question as "coincidence", at least for Facebook. – Mordred Feb 17 '15 at 21:01
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This may also reflects founder's perception on their business strategy. Wheter they are aware or not.

There are 2 terms in business related to those colors: blue / red ocean strategy. Blue means that business focuses on creating completely innovative and new things, whereas Red Ocean Strategy means that company is putting all its energy into augmenting services or products that are already delivered by someone else - basically it more about fighting against it's competitors.

I think that some of those colors in brands logos may have origin in this - at least when it comes to blue color.

More info: http://www.blueoceanstrategyaustralia.com.au/what-is-bos/red-vs-blue/

  • Hi mrkf, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your answer. If you have any questions, please see the help center or ping one of us in chat once your reputation is sufficient (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site! – Vincent Feb 18 '15 at 10:11
  • I don't see what those two consultant terms have to do with color theory. – DA01 Feb 18 '15 at 18:24
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I have read research that says that casinos use reds and warm colors at the entrance to attract people, but use blues and cool colors inside to get them to stay longer. If it does have that effect, it may be another reason social media sites choose blue.

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    Could you provide a link to the research? – JohnB Feb 17 '15 at 23:05

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