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Trends: New Colors (we’re looking at you, #00A0D1)

If there’s one thing that’s been stagnant in the design community, it’s the originality with colors. Sixty percent of the applications on my homescreen are one color. Blue. I understand the color theory behind blue, but come on, guys. Not every color is going to work; that’s a fact. But there’s no harm in experimenting and stepping out of the norm.

source

So, talk is cheap, but what are the dominant colors that can replace blue with little risk of be rejected by users? Makes sense reject all the psychology, color theory and guarantee behind the blue?

This is not a problem when we do a simple blog, however think about a big application or social network. The dominant color scheme is a main issue. Also, think about color blindness.

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FWIW, I love how the author gets called out for being an amateur web designer. Take the article with a grain of salt, I'd say. –  Rachel Keslensky Jan 21 '13 at 15:02
    
Do you mean "Should we taken risks?" or "We must take risks." –  Danny Varod Jan 21 '13 at 17:09
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'Design Trend' articles tend to be 9-out-of-10 times just SEO link bait. I wouldn't put too much weight on that particular article. –  DA01 Jan 21 '13 at 19:16
    
@downvoter, please explain what is the problem. –  Fel Jan 22 '13 at 0:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The author of that article is confusing the application of personal color preference with designing to appeal to others. Clearly, the author dislikes blue and wants more variety. The problem is that blue will be used because of the unconscious benefits it provides to the site, regardless of the designer's personal preference.

There is a lot of academic and scientific research behind color theory and psychology. I'll only provide a few links, but you can spend a lifetime researching the topic. Here's a summary of the science, though:

Applying color principles fosters desired audience response.

Emotional responses influence color considerations, and differences in color value and intensity can evoke very different emotional reactions. Light red is associated with cheerfulness, but bright or dark red can induce irritability. Light yellow-green is associated with freshness and youth, but the darker shade olive is associated with drabness and decay. Light sky blue is associated with tranquility, but the deeper value indigo is associated with depression.

  • Red: urgency, passion, heat, love, blood, excitement, strength, sex, passion, speed, danger
  • Yellow: warmth, sunshine, cheer, happiness, cowardice, brightness
  • Blue: truth, dignity, power, coolness, melancholy, heaviness, trust, reliability, belonging, coolness
  • Orange: playfulness, warmth, vibrant
  • Green: nature, health, cheerfulness, environment, money, vegetation, nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance
  • Purple: wealth, royalty, sophistication, intelligence, royal, spirituality, dignity
  • Pink: soft, sweet, nurture, security
  • Black: sophistication, elegant, seductive, mystery, death, rebellion, strength, evil
  • White: purity, cleanliness, lightness, emptiness, pure, virginal, clean, youthful, mild
  • Gold: prestige, expensive

  • Silver: prestige, cold, scientific

(Taken from http://www.creativebehavior.com/www.ergogero.com/FAQ/Part5/2Meaning.html, no longer available)

On the subject of blue:

Blue is ubiquitous as the color of choice for most sites commercial and professional. In the western world, dark blue is so strongly associated with strength and security that it is no surprise it is the color most favored by men. In Europe there are several religious associations with blue, but overall blue is considered the safest color to use worldwide when designing a Web site.

Business World

Blue is the color of the corporate world. When you see the deep rich blue, you know that you have found a Web site for a business that is trustworthy, secure and, I would add, in control.

Almost every Web site for banks in the United States either uses this blue as the primary color or sole color for its logo and Web site sending the message that yes, we will keep your money safe.

Professional

As do banks, most professional firms also use this blue. Accounting, law firms and commercial businesses tell you they are worthy of your trust and your business by using deep blue.

(Taken from http://www.masseynet.com/m-color-blue.html)

A good designer will use colors for a particular purpose and not based on personal preference. If, however, your site it dedicated to you, then by all means, use your personal preference. If your site needs to instill trust, use blue. If you need romance, use red.

Further reading:

http://zacjohnson.com/the-emotions-of-color-in-marketing/

http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-design/basic-color-theory

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_theory

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I haven't evidences from studies, but, in my opinion, good alternative is black and shades. For example, Apple, Google Products.

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I think this is a gray area :-) –  Danny Varod Jan 21 '13 at 13:52
    
greys and shadows are not a new trend. Commonly are used with another dominant color (e.g. with blue) as neutral color. I agree with black, however. –  Fel Jan 21 '13 at 14:33

We're all drinking from the same kool-aid when it comes to color psychology. Blue is the most popular color, so it makes sense that the other colors are relegated to the "long tail" of design.

Here's the other thing though: Blue is also the default color of hyperlinks. Most sites are loathe to change this color to something else (lest people not recognize a link when they see it!), and so blue is treated as a "given" color in web design, and designed around rather than replaced with something else.

Not that people don't try -- I have a focus on reds and oranges in my comic, for instance -- but there you go. You have to understand why the rules exist in order to break 'em, after all.

Once you're willing to change the link color and the way links look on your website -- and make no mistake, that's a BIG risk when talking about things like social networks -- you can take your chances with the rest of the design.

  • Cool colors that are related to blue -- greens and purples -- still have a lot of the same positive connotations as blue, with the exception that some folks have learned that double-underlined green hyperlinks are actually paid ads.
  • Neutral shades of gray work well here -- it's a rejection of color entirely, so people "get" why there's no blue in the design.
  • If you're changing the link to something else entirely, like a tag, button, or tab, people are also more forgiving of color changes. Just be careful with how you handle in-line links -- most people won't recognize them as such unless they're either blue or underlined.
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"Drinking from the same kool-aid"? That phrase usually means someone is deluded or irrational. There is a very large amount of academic and scientific research in color psychology. Most of the conclusions are very rational and have undergone critical scrutiny. I don't think it's accurate to say "We're all drinking the same kool-aid..." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_the_Kool-Aid –  mawcsco Jan 21 '13 at 15:32
    
And there used to be tons of research into how men's brains were wired differently than women's and how these differences meant men were better suited for [X] and women were only good for [Y]. I think my explanation about default colors is a better logical extrapolation than thinking that all these social networks pick blue because they want "a calming effect"! These companies don't care about horoscope-level thoughts on colors, they care about results. For 90% of these sites, "results" means getting people to click on links, and the first step is making sure people know they're links. –  Rachel Keslensky Jan 21 '13 at 15:53
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I think I agree that successful sites are focused on results, though your statistic (90%) is unsubstantiated. But, I don't agree that sites pick blue because links are blue. Until now, I've never once heard a designer make that claim. However, I've been in meetings with designers and executives that lasted hours arguing about color theory. –  mawcsco Jan 21 '13 at 16:08

When it comes to designing the UI of an application--a tool a person has to (or wants to) use to accomplish a task, the typical idea is to stay out of the way of the user. The UI is there to assist the user...not yell at the user.

As such, it's usually a very neutral color pallet...often monotone and grayscale. Colors are then reserved for visual targets...icons, alerts, buttons, etc.

Blue happens to be a color that is a) easily discernable from the gray tones and b) the closest cool color to gray. A cool color is nice to use as it still reserves the warm colors for the things you want a user to focus on.

It's less of a trend and more of a standard practice that's been proven acceptable over a few decades worth of UI design (Windows 3's hot dog theme an exception, of course)

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