Blue is often associated with creativity, innovation and imagination. But why is this particular color linked to our creative impulses? In this article, we’ll explore some of the theories behind blue’s connection to creativity, look at examples in culture and nature, and provide tips on how to harness blue for stimulating creative thinking.
Theories on blue and creativity
There are a few key theories that may explain why we make a connection between blue and creativity:
Blue sky thinking
Looking up at a clear blue sky symbolizes freedom, space and limitless potential. When our minds are unencumbered by limits, it’s easier for imagination and creativity to flourish. The expression “blue sky thinking” refers to free-flowing creative thought unhampered by constraints.
Bodies of water like oceans, lakes and rivers are blue. Water has qualities that lend themselves to creativity – fluidity, flexibility, flow. We make associations between the movement and fluidity of water and the free flow of creative inspiration.
Right brain thinking
Some neuroscience theories link the right hemisphere of the brain with creative thinking. The right brain is thought to control full-bodied experiences, emotion and visual-spatial skills. Since blue light may stimulate and enhance right brain function, it could serve to boost creative, divergent thought processes.
Examples of blue representing creativity
We can find many examples in language, culture, nature and branding where blue is used to evoke creativity.
We use expressions like “thinking outside the box,” “ocean of ideas” and “being in a blue funk” that associate blue with creativity and imagination. Someone in a creative frenzy or flow state is “blue skying.”
Many creation myths feature a blue deity overseeing imagination and creation. Ganesha in Hinduism has blue skin and removes obstacles, paving the way for creativity. In Chinese myth, the Monkey King’s blue face signifies his chaotic and creative nature.
Nature’s blue creativity
Brilliantly colored blue creatures like peacocks, blue jays, blue poison dart frogs and blue dragonflies showcase nature’s creative palette. The electric blue glow of bioluminescent organisms in the ocean’s depths inspire wonder at nature’s inventiveness.
Branding and blue
Many brands that focus on sparking creativity integrate different shades of blue in their logo and branding. These include Facebook, Twitter, Intel, HP, IBM, Samsung, Ford and more. The color seems to prime consumers to associate the brand with innovation.
How to boost creativity with blue
If you want to give your creative thinking a boost, here are some suggestions for bringing more blue into your process:
Surround yourself with blue
Paint your workspace or creative area blue, decorate with blue accents, or install blue lighting to stimulate the mind. Stepping into a serene blue environment signals to the brain it’s time for imagination.
Picture blue imagery
Visualize waves crashing on a beach, a bright midday sky or a peaceful lake. Let your mind wander freely across the blue landscape. As you daydream in blue, creative insights may bubble up.
Get out in blue nature
Spend time outdoors under blue skies or beside blue water. Bring a notebook and let the blue space work its magic. Jot down creative ideas as they come.
Do blue brainstorming
Get creative juices flowing with blue brainstorming. On a blue sheet of paper or whiteboard, note down as many ideas related to your creative challenge as possible. Aim for both quality and quantity.
Add blue accents
Keep blue items like pens, sticky notes, water bottles or computer accessories around when working. Having visual cues attunes the mind towards imagination.
Does science back blue for creativity claims?
While blue is strongly linked with creativity in language and culture, what does science actually say? Is there evidence that blue boosts innovative thinking?
Some studies support blue’s creativity boosting effects:
Mood and mindset
Blue is considered a calming, peaceful color that reduces stress and anxiety. This relaxed state allows our minds to wander freely and make creative connections.
Right brain activation
As mentioned earlier, blue may stimulate the right hemisphere associated with visual-spatial skills and divergent thinking. This can spark innovation.
In one study, test subjects exposed to blue prior to creative tasks performed better at idea generation and innovative thinking compared to those not primed with blue.
However, the connection between blue and creativity is not conclusively proven. More research is still needed to demonstrate clear causation. Some studies show no significant effect.
While blue may not categorically enhance imagination and innovation, the color is strongly tied to creativity in culture and branding. Surrounding ourselves with serene blues certainly won’t hinder the creative process. Blue’s calming effect can quiet inner critics and performance anxiety.
Blue’s association with fluidity and freedom reminds us to think flexibly and outside existing structures. So while the brain science is still uncertain, there are good reasons to harness the color blue in your quest for creativity.
|Mehta, R., & Zhu, R. J. (2009). Blue or red? Exploring the effect of color on cognitive task performances. Science, 323(5918), 1226-1229.||Exposing subjects to blue prior to creative tasks enhanced performance on idea generation and innovative thinking tests compared to red.|
|Lichtenfeld, S., Elliot, A. J., Maier, M. A., & Pekrun, R. (2012). Fertile green: Green facilitates creative performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(6), 784-797.||Found exposure to green, not blue, enhanced creativity on drawing and association tasks.|