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Infographic of the Day: The Web’s Top Brands Loooove Blue

But why?

The good people over at COLOURlovers set out to investigate an interesting question: what are the most dominant colors online? They did their best to get scientific about it, studying the colors in the brands of the top 100 websites. And then they naturally made an infographic:

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[Click for full infographic]

One of the first things that leaps out is that there are two sweet spots on the color spectrum: the highest number of brands cluster around the blue-indigo area, and another, somewhat smaller, group feels at home centered around red. In this, it would seem that the web’s brands are similar to corporate brands in general, which Wired examined in a 2003 infographic of their own. “[I]n color as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location,” they wrote, and titled the story “The Battle for Blue.”

But return for a moment to the COLOURlovers investigation. Like good scientists, they don’t just present the data, but interpret it. Specifically they set out to compare how websites in similar categories branded themselves.

[Click for full-sized version]

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On the face of it, you might expect companies offering similar services to brand themselves differently. But the infographic suggests that in some categories, brands again cluster around certain colors. The trend is most observable in the social media category, where MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have blue icons (which, after all, was the most popular color to begin with, but the let’s humor the folks at COLOURlovers for a moment; it may prove instructive).

To return to the real estate analogy, this actually squares with the counterintuitive real estate choices of certain businesses. Why is there a diamond district, rather than having diamond dealers spread themselves across a city? In a phenomenon called “economies of agglomeration,” it turns out that attracting more customers to one region nets positively for most of the dealers involved. Perhaps a similar thing is going on with color; as the “blue district” becomes the only respectable place for a social media company to set up shop, a brilliant but fuchsia-branded networking site may flounder.

There are endless exceptions and variations to this theme. “Blue,” for instance, is a complicated enough word, especially when Google tests 41 shades of it to see which performs better. And other companies have made a reputation for staking out one corner of the spectrum and throwing their elbows at anyone who approaches: T-Mobile actually considers the color magenta to be trademarked, and has even sued or threatened lawsuits against others who have used it. Such color possessiveness led the folks at Six Revisions to wonder if color was “the next limited resource.”

What are the lessons to be learned here? If you want to launch a social media company to take on Facebook, your best bet is a classic cool shade of blue. But if you have a brand-new idea that’s a sure success and want to distinguish yourself–well, there seems to be a nice sliver of unclaimed space around lavender.

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About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal

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