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April 28, 2020

It's not easy being blue

by Dr. Wayne Likavec Product Development & Quality Control Manager, DayGlo Color Corp.

The most popular color across the world is blue.

At least, that’s what the marketing world would have us believe. Three firms – Cheskin, MSI-ITM, and CMCD/Visual Symbols Library – worked together on a survey in 17 countries to determine people’s color preferences and the motives behind those decisions. From Canada to China, and from Belgium to Brazil, every country surveyed chose blue as their top color.

To give some idea of how popular blue is, 40% of all respondents worldwide chose it as their favorite color. The second favorite – purple – was only chosen by 14%.

It’s well known that we associate colors with emotions, products, and companies. Successful firms have been building their brands around color for many years and have, on occasion, created a universal color association that links a firm or product inexorably to a color in that market (see Coca-Cola and the color red). Companies understand the power of color – whether it is a part of the branding, the packaging, or even the product itself.

With blue, however, it is not so straightforward. So many brands have been linked to blue – Pepsi, America Express, Microsoft, IBM to name but a few – that the color space has become, in effect, over-saturated. This may especially be the case with packaging, where blue is also a popular background choice for products whose logo and brand may be a different color altogether.

It’s hard to build a brand with blue, but that doesn’t stop companies from trying. New and existing brands alike are turning to color to help boost sales and build their identity. And blue continues to remain a universally ‘safe’ color to use.

Standing Out In a Blue World

Against this (blue) background, how are companies to build a brand and package around a color that has, arguably, been the most popular choice for over 30 years?

Shades of Blue

The first thing to bear in mind is that, while ‘blue’ may be the most popular color in the world, very little is said about what shade of blue people are talking about.

Biologically speaking, our eyes can perceive 65,536 colors on the RGB scale that contain some degree of blue in them, although this would include any number of greens, browns and purples that would never be considered ‘blue’. A quick search on Wikipedia will bring up 60 recognized and named shades of blue in use, from the academic (Oxford Blue to Yale Blue) to the military (Air Force Blue or Navy Blue), and from the well-known (Denim or Tiffany Blue) to obscure (Phthalocyanine Blue BN or Zaffre). From another perspective, as of 2008, the carmaker Porsche had used over 70 different shades of blue in its vehicles over the years.

While some are inevitably far more popular than others, the first thing that brands need to be aware of is that there is enough room in the blue color space to find their own niche.

Color Fluorescence As far back as in the 1930s, when the founders of DayGlo first discovered pigments that glowed far brighter than normal under certain lighting conditions, there has been an interest in getting more out of color.

In the 1940s, that meant daylight fluorescent colors – shades that utilize a larger amount of both the visible light spectrum and the lower wavelengths compared to conventional ones and consequently are perceived by our eyes as far more intense colors. Those colors are visible everywhere in the consumer world today – one look in the detergents section of your local supermarket will show a range of brightly-colored packages and containers that stand out from the rest. It is the fluorescent pigments in their coloring and packaging that make those products seem to leap off the shelf.

And, yes, there is a fluorescent blue pigment available.

‘Fluorescent’ has consequently become synonymous with ‘bright’ and ‘bold’, which is not always the effect a company looks for. It is not well known, therefore, that fluorescents can also be used to create subtle shades in packaging that will catch the eye but not necessarily blind it!

At DayGlo, a good proportion of our business is in mixing fluorescent pigments with conventional colors, rather than using them on their own. Horizon Blue – our daylight fluorescent – is a very strong, bright blue indeed. Mix it with magenta, however, and it becomes a deep and rich purple; layer it instead with yellow and it becomes a luscious green. Neither of those resulting colors would be considered ‘fluorescent’, yet they retain enough of the chemical properties of that fluorescent that they emit more light, and more color, than conventional tones. Consequently, when used judiciously in packaging and products, they continue to catch the eye, even though the shades themselves are subtle.

This technology, therefore, brings another dimension to building a brand with blue, adding a touch of fluorescence to the brand’s chosen shade of blue for an extra effect – on the can, the box, or in the logo itself.

Color Special Effects:

Fluorescence is actually just one of the many color ‘special effects’ that can be used to distinguish blue products and packaging from one another, make them stand out, and ultimately build a brand identity. Here are some others.

Semi-transparent: These pigments are used in applications where consumers need to be able to see the contents of a package – such as food packaging or Tupperware containers. Traditionally that has meant a completely clear plastic needs to be used, but pigments are now available that can give a jewel-like color to the material without affecting its clarity.

Pearlescent: These pigments can be used in product packaging (and in some cases the ingredients themselves) to create a color ‘shift’ depending on how they are viewed. By layering colors together that can only be viewed at certain angles, the colors change before your eyes with a simple shift of your head.

Phosphorescent: These pigments only react to light under specific circumstances. Certain glow-in-the-dark pigments, for example, are ‘charged’ by exposure to visible light and then emit a bright and sustained blue afterglow when the lights have been turned off. Invisible fluorescent pigments, in contrast, can’t be seen in normal daylight, but produce a highly visible bright and vibrant blue color when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Putting It All Together

Blue may be the world’s most popular color, but there is clearly more than enough room within that color space for companies to build a brand identity through products and packaging that are both unique and eye-catching.

Consider partnering with color specialists, who can work with the materials available to you in order to achieve the exact color effect you are looking for to represent your brand. This can reduce the risk of costly delays in production and increase the likelihood of developing a color that will become identified with your brand and your line of products alone.

What is most important, however, is to go into the color selection process understanding all the options that are available with current technology. With probably close to 100 recognized shades of blue, and multiple color effects that can be applied to those shades, building a unique brand identity doesn’t just happen once in a blue moon….

Likavec, Wayne. "It's not easy being bl…

3. How To Read This Book

This is probably the greatest problem for anyone confronting a 500-page tome and being overwhelmed by the sheer mass of it. I have no good solution to the problem that today hardly anyone has the time any more to wade through hundreds of pages of verbal contortions. I have to write this account of my thoughts to give a documentation of where I had been, and how I got there. I hate to have other people wade through my verbiage as much as I dreaded to wade through thousands and thousands of pages of the collected verbiage of humanity to filter out those precious bits of knowing that I have now "between my ears". Of course, as I have already said, a hypermedia system would help a lot with this problem, but it costs many man years to bring all the material I have collected here into a suitable hypermedia representation. The infrastructure for this is not complete yet, and perhaps never will be. See also: THAUMAZEIN, p.115.

But there is a lighter side. Don't despair, and don't throw out the text just for this reason. First: The core matter is in the first four chapters, the rest is appendix. About half of the appendix is in German, anyway, so non-german speaking readers don't need to bother with this. This cuts the book in about half. So how do you best go about filtering out that rest the issues that suit you most? There are several different, time tested methods to apply. Lets list them:

3.1. The Jesuite Hyper Jump—Or the pinprick trick

The simplest thing I suggest you do with this text is that you open it somewhere at random and start to read. Never read more than interests you.

The method is called the "Jesuite Hyper Jump" because the Jesuites, who were on the whole very smart people, who had invented the most important hypermedia principle long before one could think of computers and random access memory storage devices. (Except Pascal, Leibniz, and Father Bouvet, of course. But this is another story.[2]) The Jesuites had found out that if you use a pin and stick it somewhere at random between the pages of the bible, and you open it, and read what's on that page, it will invariably give you the exact answer to all the questions that are bothering you at the moment. Of course that secret was never told outside the Jesuite circles, it was part of their secret spiritual weaponry with which they were so long successful as the spiritual elite troops of the Pope.[3] I have tried the trick myself, only to find out that it never worked for me. Only after long research I found out why it invariably worked for the Jesuites and not for me. First, you have to believe in the kind of God that the bible tries to impose on you as the one-and-only one there is. If you don't you are out of luck. Then, you should have a bible written in Greek, and you should know Greek as well as your mother tongue. This the Jesuites certainly did. It also works in Latin, but Greek is better. Of course, you must also be schooled in certain patterns of Jesuite Logic, and you won't get that outside the Jesuite circles either. If you know Sanskrit, you can do the same with the Rg Veda, or with the Bhagavad Gita, you can do it with the Koran, if you can read classical Arabic, or the Tora, if you read Hebrew, and so on.[4] But you should be very careful with modern language translations.[5] More on this in: ONOMA SEMEPHON, p.369.

3.2. Systematic methods

This is why I have included the "database section" and why it is so important. One of the little tricks that I found out while experimenting with outlining techniques is that if you write as many headings as I do, you arrive at a kind of short story of the book in the collected "detailed table of contents". So you can go through this section first, and look up subjects that interest you. If you then want to go on to other, related chapters, you can follow the Hypertext jumps. Since they are bi-directional, you can also follow a jump backwards, to come to material that relates to any subject matter. The same thing can be done with the index. Just find words in the index that seem to be of interest to you and read the relating chapters. You will find entry points that are suited to your tastes.

3.3. Picking the grapes: The essential structuring method

This is called so because the structure of this book is like a grape. You can go on picking each paragraph one by one, without having to go through any prescribed sequence. If you think you don't want to read one paragraph, just skip to another one. The outline structure corresponds to the risp of the grape, and each paragraph corresponds to a berry. The content of each paragraph corresponds roughly to the idea of its headline. The connection is not systematic, and as you notice, I often chose headlines that are modelled in style after newspaper headlines. Why not apply the information methods of newspapers to books also? There is a lot of know-how involved in designing good headlines, and the newspaper journalists know very much about that.

Unfortunately, scientific and philosophical writers often consider it below their dignity to write headlines. Shopenhauer may be the most extreme case. He writes only four headlines in his whole work, and they are absolutely uninformative: Erstes Buch, Zweites Buch... (first book, second book...). This forces you to wade through all his verbiage because you have not the slightest idea what is written in all this verbal morass until you have read it all. I consider this close to mental rape. Today the fundamental requirement of anything presented in writing is that there must be a structure that gives an indication what you are about to read, before you have to read it itself. This was already executed with the most exquisite craftsmanship by John Locke in his essay "Of human understanding". The way how he wrote it and structured it, should be a stringent minimal structuring principle for all literature that asserts to be scientific. Unfortunately that is rarely the case.

Even though I am not formally systematic about it, I have taken care that there is usually not more talked about in the paragraph, than what I have outlined in the title. This is a subtle dialectic, and if you follow it for a while, I believe you will get the hang of it. This is a technique that I haven't be able to find in any other book so far. I believe, that it would improve the art of book writing about 100% if this technique were widely practised. With modern word processors supporting the outlining technique, there is no problem at all using the method. And it would make the fast reading of books so much more efficient than it is now.

3.4. Never try to read the book cover to cover

This is the most exasperating and frustrating way to go about the reading. I have had to order the material in some way that seems logical to me today, and the same structure is entirely contra-productive tomorrow. I am quite glad I have the WinWord outline feature which allows me to move around whole sections of the book to different places, and I have used it often. I don't know how people in earlier ages could have written books without it. To choose an outline before writing confines you to one specific structure. If you know exactly what you are going to write, that is fine. But that is not the case with this book. This is the report of an ongoing work that is updated regularly. And if I get new insights, I must be able to change the structure of what I am writing.