Reliable. Dependable. Efficient. Logical. Trusting. Reflective. Communicative. Intelligent.
All of these adjectives are what every large corporation aspires to advertise to its market, and most of them use the colour blue to connote this.
The psychology of colour has long been studied and almost everyone has a basic understanding of how colours can be used in marketing, advertising and presenting to make us ‘feel.’ The historical and cultural perspectives of colour are extremely diverse, so how did we end up where we are today, surrounded by a sea of blue, especially in the corporate world?
A Brief History Lesson:
Of course, the story of ‘blue’ largely starts with man’s tinkering; in particular our refinement of natural substances. Once humans tapped into materials with blue and green pigments, we quickly developed a long-held association of wealth with the colour due to export value. Fast forward a fair few centuries to a very Western mindshift around the 17th century when us clever people had worked out how to create synthetic dyes. ‘Blue’ suddenly became affordable and adopted by various states of governance including British ‘bobbys’ uniforms and US Civil War military uniforms.
A Cultural Insight:
World-wide, blue has been associated with almost every emotion or attribute including;
- Virtue – hat-tip to the Catholic church for insisting Italian painters used the most expensive pigments when painting the Virgin Mary’s shawls
- Mourning – blue was the colour of working-class clothing in Rome and often adorned by wealthier individuals to instigate sympathy at the time of loss
- Barbarianism – think Mel Gibson in scary blue face paint
- Torment – in Chinese opera, a character in blue is seen as a relative of death or grief
Some research looks into evolutionary aesthetics and how a human fondness for blue (and green) comes from the colours of our desired habitats – plenty of water and nutrition for green crops would be an ideal landscape for a settling human. Research also seems to suggest that colour preferences are also similar between people regionally, leading to different cultural ideologies of colour.
From the 18th century onwards, colour theory really became a ‘thing.’ Preferences and psychological responses to colour started to influence how business used blue in their branding. Blue monopolised the IT scene, specifically the internet, as the preferred standout colour to the original, black white and grey formats of web pages and code scripts. Now, most of the FTSE 500 logos are blue and the colour is dominant in the corporate industry due to the ‘feelings’ of trust, impartiality, and dependability it evokes.
It’s highly unlikely that there will be another cultural mindshift towards blue anytime soon, but our approach to colour is changing. The corporate world might be rooted in blue but the industry is starting to get creative. Services, much like Capgemini’s ASE and AIE have the opportunity to play with colour and create lasting brands and products that evoke other responses. It is so important now, more than ever, that we consider the effects of colour on our clients and how we want to work.
Colour addresses one of our most neurological basic need for stimulation. If you want to inspire, invigorate, excite or even stabilise, rationalise and balance – colour is a fantastic way to do it.