It started as an odd musing, but it's developed into a bit of a minor obsession: why are so many of the popular social media platforms blue?
Yes, blue. A sort of mid-to-bright blue to be precise. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Yammer, Tumblr, Orkut, Foursquare, Blippy and Soundcloud (with some orange). Even MySpace, back in the day, had a blue logo. It still uses predominantly blue, alongside black.
Once you’ve noticed this you can’t un-see it. You start to feel like it’s everwhere.
Why on earth has this happened? Why do so many of our websites look the same? Even Wikipedia’s photograph of the collective ‘share’ buttons is about 40-50 per cent blue.
Perhaps it’s down to the dictats of Pantone, the international colour people. In 2000 and 2008, they declared that blue shades were the ‘Colour of the Year’. In 2000, we had Cerulean, a sort of sky blue, and in 2008, we had the brighter Blue Iris.
For both colours, the Pantone people justified their choice by saying that blue was calming – in the case of Blue Iris: “Combining the stable and calming aspects of blue with the mystical and spiritual qualities of purple, Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.”
There’s some similar guff about spiritual fulfilment for Cerulean. You may guess that I don’t buy this, and you’d be right, though there may be something in it being perceived as calming.
But between the two years, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter were founded. Yammer started up in 2008. These were big years for social media and the officially sanctioned use of blue. Hmm.
Another theory for me at the moment is that as computer users, we are used to seeing a blue screen. Both the Microsoft Windows and Mac desktop backgrounds and logos have made use of blue for years. Does blue = trusted technology provider?
Happily, I’m not the only person to have noticed this; Quora has some questions with very good answers on the subject. There are some interesting responses, ranging from blue having no negative associations in any culture, to blue simply being a versatile background colour and one that is easy on the eye, especially when covered in text. But in short, no one really knows why it’s suddenly become so popular among a certain type of online business.
Either way. Surely we’ve reached blue market saturation?
By Steve Richards, MD (@chips11)