The Power of Blue in Small Business Branding and Design [10 Tips]

My favorite color is blue.

And, the odds are pretty good that your favorite color might also be blue.

That’s because blue appears to be most people’s favorite color. Three separate studies (more on those below) have revealed blue or blue/green to be the most popular color for both men and women.

But, why all this fuss about color?

Well, it turns out that color’s impact isn’t limited to the personal sphere. As we explained previously,

According to a study examining the effect of color on sales, 92.6% of people surveyed by the CCI: Institute for Color Research said that color was the most important factor when purchasing products.

Given color’s power overall, and blue’s undeniable popularity, it’s worth taking a deeper look into this shade.

  • Major brands like Ford, American Express, Merrill Lynch, PayPal, AT&T, and Samsung have embraced blue as their featured brand color. And this is just a small sampling.
  • A study conducted by Paul Herbert found blue to be the most popular shade used in web design.
  • And research has shown that people associate blue with feelings like trust, reliability, and quality – all good things for any business.

Over the past decade, over 220,000 designers on crowdspring have helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, and agencies around the world with web, graphic, product, and packaging design. Here’s what we’ve learned along the way on how you can harness the power of blue for your business branding.

First, the research

It’s easy enough to make specious claims – especially about topics as potentially nebulous as color. But, we don’t roll like that. Call us crazy, but we like good old-fashioned research to back us up.

Each of the following studies reveals information that will inform how you can best use the color blue in your small business design.

Study 1

In  2003 Philip Cohen, a University of Maryland sociologist, conducted a casual study polling nearly 2000 people. Cohen’s question – “What’s your favorite color?”

While Cohen acknowledged that his survey sample was not random (he asked the University of Maryland faculty, staff, and students), further analysis of his data suggested that the results were not dramatically skewed by the sample. In other words, his data was trustworthy.

Ultimately, he found that 42% of men and 29% of women chose blue as their favorite color.

Study 2

Paper merchant GF Smith and Hull 2017 UK City of Culture organized an online survey in 2017.  The survey included 30,000 random participants hailing from 100 different countries.

Each participant was invited to proactively select their favorite shade using a color slider. This technique allowed the participants far more specificity of shade than the other two studies mentioned here.

The final results revealed a shade of blue/green to be the most popular color. This supports Philip Cohen’s data – which identified green as the second most popular color after blue.

Study 3

In 2003, researcher Joe Hallock conducted a survey asking people to identify their favorite color. But, he went beyond just asking about favorite colors. He also posed questions that helped him to determine which colors evoked certain emotional responses in his participants.

42% of respondents cited blue as their favorite color. The participants also associated blue with a wealth of positive attributes. These included trustworthiness, high-quality, dependability/reliability, and security.

Understanding these psychological associations with blue can help you to evoke certain feelings in your audience and use the color more effectively in your design and marketing.

How to use blue in small business design

People really like blue. But, that doesn’t mean that blue is the answer to every design question.

Like any design element, it must be applied strategically in order to gain the best effect.

Is blue right for your brand or your next design project? Let’s find out.

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The psychology of blue

While blue is commonly linked with sadness (think of “blues” music and Picasso’s Blue Period),  as we’ve already pointed out, there are also many positive associations.

Joe Hallock’s research into color determined that blue communicates trust, security, reliability, dependability, and high-quality.

Hallock’s study also mentions that “red will stimulate the autonomic nervous system, while blue will tend to relax it.” This may explain why shades of blue also conjure feelings of calm and serenity.

I find the picture above to be very relaxing. Do you?

These psychological correlations are important to keep in mind. In fact, that’s how crowdspring’s signature shade of blue was chosen. Crowdspring’s CEO, Ross Kimbarovsky, explains:

Many business owners and marketers pick colors simply because they like that color. And there’s nothing wrong with that approach. But over 90% of people say that color is the most important factor when purchasing products. And while color is personal and subjective, there are useful guidelines for picking colors for your brand identity.

We believed that the color of our logo should not be left to chance or picked solely because it looked good aesthetically. When we looked at the psychology of color, we learned that blue is the color of honesty, quality, competence, trust, reliability, and integrity. These were all important adjectives that reflected the type of business we wanted to create and our focus group testing, comparing different colors, supported our thinking. As a result, we picked blue and considered a variety of shades of blue before settling on our current color.

If you want to communicate stability, trustworthiness, responsibility, integrity, dependability, calm, or quality… consider choosing a shade of blue to feature in your design.

However, if you want to communicate tension, urgency, or speed, blue’s not the color for you.

Here are some suggestions you can try:

  • Choose a brand-appropriate shade of blue for your logo design or for other elements of your company’s brand identity (your business name, logo, and everything visual about your brand).
  • Test blue call-to-action (CTA) buttons to encourage trust in new users.
  • Frame lead generation forms in blue or place them on a blue background to help set user’s minds at ease.
  • Avoid shades of blue if you’re using urgency tactics to drive leads to act quickly.

Establish industry affiliation

Certain industries have embraced blue. Banking and finance, travel, communications, medicine, and heavy equipment manufacturing all show a predilection for blue in their brand colors.

This may have started as a result of the psychological implications of the color. After all, these industries all place great importance on establishing trust and reliability with their customers. But after years of reinforcement, these industries are now subconsciously associated with the color in and of themselves.

Think about it…

What is Wall Street without navy suits?

Google “nurse” and you’ll see an army of blue-scrub-clad people smiling back at you.

Ford, GM, BMW, Hyundai, Boeing and JetBlue, Travelocity, Expedia, and American Airlines… the list of big brands in (or related to) travel with blue logos and brand colors goes on and on.

And, your small business can use these associations to its advantage.

Here’s how:

  • Does your small business belong to any of the industries listed above? If so, lend credibility to your new small business by selecting a brand-appropriate shade of blue for your logo or website design. By “looking the part” customers and clients will be more inclined to trust you.
  • Alternately, you can use industry norms to your advantage by choosing to avoid blues in your brand colors – making your brand stand out. If you go this route, make sure that you still find a way to communicate the important traits (like trust, reliability, and honesty) that blue represents.

Color theory

A monochromatic palette featuring varying shades of blue has a calming effect.

You all remember a color wheel, right?

A color wheel is a visual tool for showing the relationships between colors. And, those relationships can help you determine which colors to use alongside blue to create certain effects.

There are thousands of different shades and tints of blue – not to mention varying degrees of saturation. From cerulean to periwinkle, navy, aqua, and royal blue… there are plenty of opportunities to find just the right color blue to represent your brand.

Pairing blue with bright, high-contrast colors creates a higher energy look. Monochromatic color palettes and palettes featuring neutrals with blue will create a more soothing effect.

Blue with yellow or orange looks youthful and energetic.

Tints of blue (containing blue mixed with varying degrees of white) are lighter and often cheerful and youthful in appearance.

Shades of blue (combining blue with black) are darker and trend toward a more somber, formal, and mature look.

Be mindful of the shade of blue that you choose. There’s a science to color psychology and you should think carefully about which colors will best communicate your brand as you flesh out the rest of your palette.

And be sure to use the colors consistently. As we point out in our comprehensive guide on starting a business, use your brand’s colors in your website visual design and throughout your marketing materials in a way that reflects and complements your brand identity.

Here are a few options to consider:

  • Orange, on the opposite side of the color wheel, is the complement of blue. It pops against a blue background – and vice versa. If you’re going for a high-energy look, orange or its close relative yellow make a great choice. But, be careful of the particular shades you choose. This combination can look garish if executed poorly.
  • Liven up neutral color palettes featuring white, black, grey, or brown by introducing blue as an accent color. This will give blue extra visual punch as the only color featured in your design. Use blue to draw focus to the important elements you want your audience to notice.
  • Blue is one of the three primary colors – all other colors can be mixed from the original triad of red, blue, and yellow. Shades of these colors are often paired together. Using all three at once can look childish – which is perfect if that’s your goal. If not, avoid a primary color palette.
  • Monochromatic color schemes featuring multiple shades of blue look sophisticated and soothing. If you’re aiming for understated elegance, this is a great option. Combine this with white for ease of reading and functionality.

Sacre bleu

With blue’s nearly universal popularity and wealth of positive attributes, it’s a powerful color. Is it the right color for your brand? Only you know.

But, if you do decide to embrace blue in your branding and marketing design, keep in mind the psychological implications, industry associations, and color theory to get the best possible results.

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