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Coloring book of popular services: the blue strategy September 17, 2010

Posted by salla in Blogroll.
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A recent interesting blogpost in ColourLovers is writing about colors of social web companies, or specifically colors used by the brands from the top 100 sites in the world.

It turns out that the logos of most popular web services are dominated by blue color. Red seems to be a strong silver medalist. Huge traffic social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype and Wikipedia all trust in blue. A previous look into issue by Wired 10 years ago shows that also majority of the biggest American corporates are painted in blue or red.

"The Colors of the Web" from ColourLovers

What first comes to mind is of course the question, whether the blue color actually brings popularity or do new ventures just pick the blue color (consciously or unconsciously) to be more popular? And is Google actually playing it safe by putting the entire rainbow in their logo?

Color is one of the fundamental aspects of human perception, and there is a lot of research on its effects on cognition and behavior. However, the psychological processes actually looming behind color perception have not been clarified. Several studies nevertheless tells that blue is associated with openness, relaxation, happiness, peace and tranquility. In contrast, red is seen as a stimulating color, referring to excitement, anxiety, happiness and activity, but also dangers and mistakes.

It is still unclear how much emotional reactions evoked by colors are universal and fundamentally human,  but a concensus now lies in cultural context emphasis, which sees color associations very tied in cultural and personal contexts. This actually means that the use of blue logos could in a way create a positive spiral of reinforcement, when blue is constantly getting more associations in popular services.

One recent study demonstrates that red color can bring out primarily an avoidance motivation, whereas blue will activate an approach motivation. Also, red color enhances performance on a detail-oriented task, whereas blue enhances performance on a creative task. Considering this it makes a lot of sense that social network sites use blue colour in their visual apperance.

When designing the DiRe experiments we decided not to use company logos as stimulus material, since the possible emotional reactions evoked by colours or plain visuality could bring too much noise in the psychophysiological signals recorded.

See research on the issue:

Mehta, R. & Zhu R. J. (2009). Blue or Red? Exploring the Effect of Color on Cognitive Task Performances. Science 27 February 2009.
Suk, Hyeon-Jeong (2006): Color and Emotion. A Study on the Affective Judgment of Color Across Media and in Relation to Visual Stimuli. Doctoral dissertation. (pdf)

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