Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Most Powerful Colors in the World ...And How You Make The Next Ones (colourlovers.com)
172 points by dariusmonsef on Sept 15, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

What's interesting is how little thought seems to go into differentiating web sites through colour palette.

It's a common consideration in other industries to establish a clear colour choice as a method of differentiation. Take Coke red, for example, versus Pepsi blue. Or green John Deere tractors or yellow Dewalt power tools. Any new entrant would be wise to pick a specific colour and stick to it.

Looking at the colour maps here, were I to start a social network, I would go for a scheme in the yellow/orange/red spectrum to separate myself from the dogpile of sites lumped in the blue area. Likewise, for a blogging host, something in the greens or red/purples would be good.

It looks like the location and social news sites are doing a better job of differentiating themselves.

Also take a look at Google and Microsoft, clearly "rainbow" companies. Apple used to be a rainbow company but has done an excellent job of shifting their palette over to the monochromatics. Not only is it as far away from rainbow as you can get, but the monochromatics are associated with "expensive","premium" and "well designed".

I think rainbow palettes actually kind of backfire when it comes to big companies. It's like they try too hard to say "hey look at us, we're so fun!" while also looking unfocused. However, overemphasis on one colour can backfire too.. just look at Yahoo and all their purple crap. They just seem completely dorky.

Rainbow colour looks a bit cheap imo - for Google, because all its services are free for consumers, it plays fine.

If I'm starting a social media company though, I probably wouldn't want to venture out too far away from blue - simply because it's the easiest way for users to associate it as a mainstream social media company, i.e. alongside the Facebook-Twitter-Linkedin-Foursquare league, unless you are competing head on with any of these big four. I know this is a cheap strategy, but it also makes it cheaper for you to establish yourself in the market.

Or, just pick your favorite color, much easier and you'll always be comfortable with.

Looking at the colour maps here, were I to start a social network, I would go for a scheme in the yellow/orange/red spectrum to separate myself from the dogpile of sites lumped in the blue area.

Is it good to be different merely to "separate yourself"? You could go with having white text on a black background to differentiate yourself too, but that wouldn't necessarily be a positive..

Blue really does get around. It's associated, in my troubled mind, with pornographic movies, melancholic music, police forces, and super-cleanness (the whiter-than-white, bluey whiteness promised by Daz laundry detergent), and the word "blue" seems especially popular among the names of colors for branding: Bluetooth, Blu-ray, Jetblue, Big Blue, Blue Cross, even Blaupunkt.

Promiscuous Blue would be a great name for a band.

the whiter-than-white, bluey whiteness promised by Daz laundry detergent

Random trivia: In order to combat the fact that clothing gradually turns yellow as fibres are damaged, modern laundry detergents contain dyes which fluoresce blue under ultraviolet light. The "bluey whiteness" really is exactly that!

And in the old days, to hide dirt and especially to mask the yellow sweat ring that develops around the collar after many days of hard labor, companies issued blue shirts to their workers as a uniform. Hence, "blue collar" work.

You can actually buy bluing agent for your laundry, it's pretty old school, but actually adds a bit of blue dye for the same effect.


adds a bit of blue dye for the same effect

Blue dye != blue fluorescent dye. Blue dye simply absorbs non-blue light; blue fluorescent dye absorbs UV and emits blue light.

Ok then, a similar effect :)

In pottery there’s a saying that if you’ve made something and you’re not sure it’s good enough to sell, then you should just glaze it blue and someone will buy it regardless.

"Promiscuous Blue would be a great name for a band"

International Klein Blue is probably the most promiscuous blue you can find, you cant reproduce that unnerving vibrancy on screens yet, pity.


Wow. That is some blue blue. And that's not even it.


Apparently it's the same blue used by the Blue Man Group.

+1 for Blaupunkt. I've always liked that word/brand.

What's your first language?

English, but I had a vintage Mercedes Benz years ago with the Blaupunkt radio and the name makes me nostalgic for a more innocent time (when I thought I could fix up an old Mercedes).

Blue is also synonymous with trust and stability. Hence the predominance of blue in banking logos.

I incidentally find http://www.colourlovers.com and specifically http://www.colourlovers.com/web/trends very useful in the design process

Yeah colour lovers is my first stop on the inspiration trail when I start a new design. Browsing colour pallets gives me a starting point from which to build from without borrowing too heavily from others work directly.

Blue is also a popular choice with Apple’s icon designers: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4073000/dock.png

Not just with Apple's icon designers, but with icon designers targeting OS X as a whole:


(At least with the designers of the icons for the applications I use most often.)

And not just icons... the OS X interface generally marks interactive elements in blue (folders, buttons, scrollbars, highlights etc.) -- living up to the "Aqua" name. The default Windows 7 interface also has a bluish tint, although not nearly as extreme as it did with XP.

I think that this has a lot to do with the emotions felt when thinking of the color red (fire, exciting, passion) or blue (calm, simple, soothing). It's much harder to define a brand with green (leaves? slime?), as people have become used to the above two.

From experience, it's also much easier to combine red and blue with a grayscale palette (iTunes icon, twitter to name two), which may also contribute to their popularity.

Or red (anger, blood, propaganda) or blue (cold, sad, depressing) ...we all have different personal associations with color... And add on top of that cultural.

As for green (money, health, fresh)

I would add that red implies danger. Using the metaphor of an icon as a button, no one wants to push the red button. It might launch the nukes.

funny use of colour:


NASA's Ames Research Center has a fascinating site called "Using Color in Information Display Graphics":


It has articles, tools, a bibliography, and an entire section called "Designing with Blue":


Does anyone know how culturally broad this is? The examples tend to be USian or highly western companies.

Blue dominates as a color in the west as it represents 'corporate' and 'trust' to western eyes (if you ever want to got through customs faster at the airport wear a blue shirt). I'd imagine if you did the same ting for Asian companies the predominant color would be red.


For web design, monitors tend to skew towards bluish white light, making blue designs look more appealing.

Doesn't explain the popularity on that list of orange. I have no fondness for orange (my HN topcolor is a soothing 7BB6F0) and have always been a bit of a loss to figure out why it figures so much. It also tends to be the same shade of orange - whereas at least with blue you get a bigger range.

Yes it does. Orange is the complement to blue so orange will also look good on a blue screen.

The most powerful? Or the easiest to make good designs with?

Is it really easier to make a good design with Blue vs Green? I agree it is easier, but not from an execution perspective... but rather from an inspiration one. With so many blue sites, it's much easier to get "inspired" and model after others.

Interestingly not every language distinguishes blue from green: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguishing_blue_from_green_...

That was an interesting article. I was completely unaware how many major brands use a similar color.

Classmates.com is rated higher than Tudou or Netflix.

I didn't realize they are still a force. Didn't facebook solve this problem?

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact