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I recently noticed a lot (maybe half) of my icons are blue, or in a faint shade of blue.

enter image description here

It's also true for the favicons in my browser bookmarks.

The new Windows 10 default wallpaper is blue, and the default color is blue. Even Stack Exchange uses a lot of blue (for text), and UX Stack Exchange main color is blue.

So, what's up with this color? Is there some kind of explanation to why it is used so often?

I remember that human eyes are more receptive to green, so that seems weird to me.

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    I suspect it's less a UX decision than a marketing/branding one. – Ken Mohnkern Jun 17 '16 at 13:38
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    Releated: ux.stackexchange.com/q/84503/77185 The color table in the accepted answer says "blue is for trust". – palsch Jun 17 '16 at 14:00
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    Because it's the best color. Clearly. – jpmc26 Jun 17 '16 at 21:17
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    "human eyes are more receptive to green" It's interesting to note, then, that almost all of those blues in the image aren't blue blue, but close to cyan. The sky blue used by Dropbox, Skype and Telegram have a hue around 200(out of 360) or 135 (out of 240). Fully saturated that would be something like RGB 0,170,255. Rather green for a blue. – PixelSnader Jun 18 '16 at 12:54
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    Blue is the greatest color ever! – Taryn Jun 19 '16 at 3:23
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There are a lot of reasons to use blue, I'll list a few of them:

Give a sense of innovation. Often, companies will use blue because it feels calm and professional, this combined with a smart layout will give a sense of innovation and comfort.

Sources: Psychological Properties Of Colours, The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding, Color psychology

Makes the product seem trustworthy. More often than not, it's a case of trying to convince the user that this is the right product to use. The purpose of adding blue in this case is convincing the user of it's credibility.

Sources: Psychological Properties Of Colours, How color impacts emotions and behaviors

Colorblindness. Most common types of colorblindness (protanopia and deuteranopia) can see the color blue. This can't be said for colors like green or red.

Sources: Colour Blindness, Color blindness

Taste. A lot of people simply like the color.

Sources: Why is blue the world's favorite color?, Pie Chart: Humanity's Favorite Colors, True Colors – Breakdown of Color Preferences by Gender, The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding, List of USA Survey Results: What is your favorite color?*

*This one actually shows that blue isn't just the top favorite color, but also the top second favorite color in the group of tested people)

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    Unless you have sources for any of that, it appears to all be opinion. Of course, color is mostly opinion anyway. – Rob Jun 17 '16 at 13:23
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    I would never post opinions, they are irrelevant here. If you simply google "worldwide favorite color" you'll get multiple charts showing blue is the worldwide favorite color. It's also known that colors are associated with certain emotions, blue often is linked to things such as Intelligence, trust, efficiency, logic and calmness. I could always add url's referring if you desire so. – MJB Jun 17 '16 at 13:32
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    Just want to point out, colorblindness typically doesn't mean you can't see a colour, it just means you get shades of colors confused (especially when they are next to each other). As a colorblind person, I can vouch for blue being the color that I never view as another (that I'm aware of), however purple, dark green and some pinks and red's often look blue to me (told by mates or checked hex code online) – JosephGarrone Jun 17 '16 at 14:33
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    @MJB Your answer might be easier to read if you hyperlink the sources inline or do them all at the end, so the important information is all together and at the top. – Insane Jun 17 '16 at 17:47
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    This answer went from some nice information to a great answer through the edits! With the sources in this format it is a great starting point to read about the topic! – Falco Jun 20 '16 at 8:51
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This very detailed discussion on Quora provides some suggestions for the popularity of blue in design.

Some of the ideas:

  • Blue is one of the only dark colors not associated with a specific meaning to the user (e.g. red = error).
  • Traditional perceptions of colors in society.
  • It doesn't stand out because the eye doesn't see it as well, so it is a good background.
    • It is perceived as "conservative", probably for the same reason.
  • A preference for blue may be associated with water or sky.

Overall, I don't think there is a clear answer, but there are many theories.

  • Really, blue is not associated with a specific meaning? I thought it was mostly used for informational notices – Robin Kanters Jun 21 '16 at 13:17
  • @RobinKanters, do people look at blue and think "information!" the same way they look at red and think "error/problem"? I don't think so. – user31143 Aug 4 '16 at 7:01
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The advantages of Blue include:

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    Unfortunately I could not find the original source for the "best" international color reference. It is simply referred to as "Graphic Design: Psychology of Color, Lesson 13: Colors and Moods". This is the dead link I found: iit.bloomu.edu/vthc/design/psychology.htm – Benjamin S Jun 17 '16 at 14:16
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    It seems like quite a leap from "helps regulate our circadian cycle" to "beneficial for eye health"! – mattdm Jun 20 '16 at 13:42
  • @mattdm Good point. I inferred the "beneficial to eye health" from the original reference which states "[blue light] is essential to our vision, ... and in general to human health." Unfortunately that "The Good Side of Blue Light' section is very sparse and doesn't elaborate on the general benefits it refers to. – Benjamin S Jun 20 '16 at 14:50
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    Of course regulating our circadian rhythm doesn't help when we are exposed to lots of blue emanating from our phones and tablets just before (or at) bedtime! – gbjbaanb Jun 21 '16 at 12:21
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Have you considered that blue on average is the worlds favorite colour? https://today.yougov.com/news/2015/05/12/why-blue-worlds-favorite-color/

The decision to use blue would be a subconscious decision for a lot of designers and even more worrying.. maybe the users colour preferences aren't being considered!

  • This is sort of question-begging though. Why is blue the world's favorite color? – user31143 Jun 17 '16 at 9:46
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    Agreed.. but if you were to ask the average person why, what answers do you think you would get? "i don't know... i just like it more" would be up there! – OzzyWadd Jun 17 '16 at 9:56
  • @dan1111 because it is used so often. – user67695 Dec 1 '16 at 19:32
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Ok this answer doesn't answer the question, but it's longer than a comment and fun to mention, so I post it anyway.

Blue is a new color

It turns out that we cannot see the blue color, until we have the name for it. Or to put it as philosopher Wittgenstein, "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world"

No one could see the color blue until modern times

Blue is a new green

"Interestingly, blue is 'greener' than green in terms of conveying an impression of eco-friendliness, despite the frequent use of the word green to convey that idea"

Blue is the new green: Logo colours send a sustainable message

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    The "blue is a new color" thing is the pop-science equivalent of an urban legend – mattdm Jun 20 '16 at 13:43
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    @Ooker, this is a very interesting discussion, specially your second point. However, just like mattdm says, your first point has been proven false and only a build-up from an extremely small sample group and a lot of speculation added (btw, Homer mentions blue as well). Anyway, +1 for a vey interesting discussion and for adding Wittgenstein to the mix :) – Devin Jun 20 '16 at 15:59
  • @Devin lol, I'm glad to know someone who knows Wittgenstein too 😀. At first I thought that this "research" is a solid scientific evidence for the philosophy theory, but it's proven false. I wonder that if there is another scientific theory to claim this. – Ooker Jun 21 '16 at 9:10
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I think this is a common bias of programmers that I always want to avoid.

Blue should probably the preferred color as a "default theme". For example on StackExchange, the developers are not supposed to know what the culture a new subsite would have. And blue is safe and understandable with this justification. It's much better than everything being red or green.

In most other cases, it appeared quite unfriendly. The positive meaning would be "you just do your whatever work or explore whatever you want to know, and I won't distract you", and the negative meaning is that too. As this is more explicit, it might be even worse than black and white.

Being a big platform that you don't want to control too much things, you might want your logo or background being blue. But for smaller sites or applications, it merely means nothingness which is a bit undesirable.

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    I honestly have no idea what you're even trying to say. I read it twice. "For example on StackExchange, the developers are not supposed to know what the culture a new subsite would have." What does that even mean? WHat developers? What new sites? "In most other cases, it appeared quite unfriendly." Are you saying blue is an unfriendly color for some reason? – Dan Jun 17 '16 at 23:28
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    @Dan They mean that blue is often used as a safe color, a default. But at the same time, using a go-to color shows a lack of effort while designing something. If you start a new subsite for potato-lovers on stackexchange, you could use the safe, omnipresent blue... but a potato beige/brown would probably be more suitable. – PixelSnader Jun 18 '16 at 13:02
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    As a side note, I would join a potato community. – Dan Jun 20 '16 at 16:34