The Small Details & Their Meaning

Jun 23, 2011 by Shaun Smylski


Some graphic elements say more than you may imagine.

The image to the left displays the colour blue. If I were to ask, “Does this image tell a story?” what would your answer be? It’s just a solid colour and not a photograph. There is no depiction of actions or words to be read. The most that can be technically derived from the colour is its HEX value of #3B5998.

If we were to start building an idea around this one colour, how would we start? Let me first say that over 500 million people see this particular blue every month. This is Facebook’s blue. 

red green color blindness test

Why did Facebook Choose Blue?

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour-blind. Blue is the richest colour Mark can see, otherwise colours don’t really matter to him. One common type of red-green color blindness is Deuteranopia seen below.

facebook deuteranopia

facebook ordinary

This is the creators’ personal colour preference and the first reason it was chosen. It’s a decision intimate to the person involved, and this fact is impactful alone. It demonstrates that meaning went into this choice and it was not a detail that bounced around the office until everyone agreed. 

The Psychology of the Colour Blue

Psychology wise, most other colours distract while blue is much more transparent to the human eye. Blue just happens to be the nirvana for the brain and blue user interfaces are a nice place for eyes to relax on for longer periods of time. 

So, not only does the colour blue express something about the product and the creator, it also provides usability benefits to everyone who spends more than a few minutes logged in to Facebook. 

The Small Details Make the Design

All of this to say, it’s the small details that really help drive a design and a story. Would Facebook be nearly as popular if the whole site was in red or orange? Even if the layour was identical, would it give you the same feeling? Tell you the same story? What do you think? 

facebook home red

What are some of the small details of a brand that make or break the design for you? Let me know in the comments section below!

Shaun Smylski - Design Lead

Shaun Smylski is a UI/UX Designer, Brander, & Typographer. He also meditates on the way design affects thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

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