Blue is frequently cited as the Western world's favourite colour. Why? Well, the emotive power of colour has been debated for generations and remains a contested topic for discussion.
One reason could be because blue has so many positive associations with the natural world. Research shows that in general, people are naturally more attracted to colours associated with significant everyday objects that tend to evoke positive emotions. This is Schloss and Palmer’sEcological Valence Theory of colour preference, and a key element of the biophilic design approach, which recommends the use of ‘natural analogues’, or nature references including natural colours within interior design, to bring positive emotional benefits. Perhaps this should be called ‘biophilic colour.’
Colour is individual.
We also know that personal colour memories and learned connotations of colour can affect how we respond emotionally and behaviourally to colour. Colour is individual. When you think of ‘blue’, what colour do you picture? There are literally millions of blues. As succinctly written by Michelle Ogundehin (for Dezeen),
“Blue is arguably the most democratic of colours. It literally means all things to all people, with a welter of associations depending on the precise tone in question, hence its universal appeal.”
Here are three very different colour palettes that explore the spectrum of blues seen in nature. Think about each colour palette in turn and explore how it makes you feel and compare your emotional response for each.
Blue colour scheme featuring clockwise from top left: Portiner Rug, Iceland Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Turquoise Throw, Guernsey Pembroke Bay.
Biophilic Colour: colours that reference nature can bring positive emotional benefits.
As you consider your emotional response to each colour story, remember that colours can trigger positive and negative emotions. The colour blue has been said to lower blood pressure, relax and focus the mind and instil a sense of calm. This is turn can naturally boost creative thinking, inspiration and confidence. But too much of this calming effect could induce sleepiness and reduced concentration. Getting the balance right by exploring how the mix of colours and tones works for you is the key.
As you can see, different shades of blue can create very different emotive responses, from calming and relaxing, to refreshing and uplifting, or energizing and invigorating. Our emotive response is driven not only by the colours themselves, but also by the chroma – how saturated, or muted, the colour is. Any of these colour palettes can be customised by changing the proportions of each colour, or increasing or decreasing the intensity of the colour to heighten or lower its’ affects.