Color In Design: Singing The Blues

“Blue flower, red thorns! Blue flower, red thorns! Blue flower, red thorns! Oh, this would be so much easier if I wasn’t color-blind!”

Donkey, Shrek

Last week, in the first of a series of post about the use of color in design, we looked at passionate red. This week we’re moving from the warm side of the color wheel to the cool side to take a look at the color blue. Blue is a natural color associated with the sky and the sea. It has a calming effect and is said to be a good color for bedrooms as it can help you sleep.

While red can convey feelings of strong emotion and passion, blue is of course also associated with feelings of sadness and depression. In the west, brides borrow something blue and in some cultures blue is thought to keep bad spirits away. So just like red, blue can mean many things to many people and it’s something you need to be aware of when using it in your design. Who is your target audience and how will they react to blue on a web site, a logo or a poster?

Using Blue In Design

The term blue really covers a multitude of colors from navy blue through to light blue. Deep blues are often considered to be regal, scholarly, serious and analytical while the lighter blues convey cleanliness, calmness and freshness. Combining light blue and dark blue, sometimes referred to as bankers colors, has connotations of stability, trust, power and strength which is why it is used so frequently in corporate designs. And don’t forget, Pantone have declared 2010 the year of Turquoise.

Blue can cool down warm color schemes using hot red or orange and creates good eye-catching contrast when combined with yellow. Blue and white is crisp, fresh and quite often corporate in appearance. Here’s a couple of well known blue and white logos including the famous “Big Blue” IBM logo designed by Paul Rand.

bmw-logo ibm

addidas ge

Here’s some examples of websites using blue as a major part of the design.

Squared Eye

squared

Sohtanaka

Sohtanaka

Sahar Design

Sahar

Festival Boreal

festival

White House

WhiteHouse

Toggle

Toggle

Owltastic

owltastic

How do you feel about blue? Cool and calm, or cold and corporate?

Win an Annual Membership to Learnable,

SitePoint's Learning Platform

  • http://sffarlenn.net Laneth

    Quick question about the White House website – if the Republicans got voted in, would their site change to a Red theme? (I’ll finish reading when I finish work, that just crossed my mind :P )

  • Housamz

    I like blue
    used in my website: http://www.housamz.com/

  • http://www.historycommons.org/ Black Max

    I’m generally an Obama supporter, but Andy Rutledge’s “redesign” of the USA.gov site to reflect what he thinks the Obama administration would bring to bear (howling Soviet-style socialism) cracks me up. Not a blue in sight. Here’s his walkthrough. I don’t agree with anything he says on politics, but he’s a crackerjack designer and design blogger.

    The Republican websites I’ve paid any attention to tend to use the same red-white-and-blue theme as most Democrats. I saw an interesting comparison of the Obama and McCain campaign sites in 2008: both were strongly blue-themed, but McCain’s site had ruler-straight demarcations (looked like an old table design) while Obama’s went for softer, rounded corners and generally niftier design choices. Nothing political there, just the designs of whatever gunslingers the two campaigns employed.

  • Green IRAN

    hi, who is told you that Blue is a color for mourning in IRAN ??? i’m iranian and Blue in my country is the color of Royality and Elegancy. be careful about what you say about cultures and countries.

    • http://www.laughingliondesign.net Jennifer Farley

      Hi Blackmax, that redesign is excellent. Made me laugh too, thanks for the link. Quite onion-esque.

      Hi Green Iran, my mistake, thanks for pointing it out and I’ve removed it from the post.

  • Fazai38

    Beautiful collections – I have collected the 20 fascinating blue websites for inspirations too last year.

    View it here