New survey reveals the colour entrepreneurs associate most with success – and the answer may surprise you

Want to create a successful company? Then break out the blue paint.

According to a new survey by crowdsourcing design group 99designs, 57% of 1,500 businesses, entrepreneurs and designers associated the colour blue with success.

That’s followed by green at 35%, then white at 32%, then black at 29% and red at 21%. When chosen by males, purple was the colour least associated with success, while females were least likely to choose orange.

99designs chief executive Patrick Llewellyn told SmartCompany this morning he was surprised by the results, saying he assumed white would have been the first choice due to Apple’s massive success.

“You see Apple everywhere, and this trend towards beautiful simple design is really being led by them, so I was interested to see that blue had the biggest impact.”

“We’re actually going to do some more digging into this, to see why people associate blue with success. But I think it just represents a strong colour, a very conservative colour, and that comes across.”

Colour theorists often associate blue – which is a primary colour – with strength. Dark blues are associated with professionalism and reliability, while lighter blues have a peaceful and “light” connotation, evoking a feeling of trust.

Llewellyn points to blue being used in political campaigns, along with some corporate logos.

Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign used dark blue as a primary colour, while massive American corporations use blue quite a lot – IBM and Walmart are just two examples, even though both were ranked in the survey as having some of the worst logos around.

Facebook’s iconic logo uses blue as a background as well.

“IBM is the original big blue, and although you don’t hear much about them unless you’re in enterprise software, it’s still a juggernaut. It’s adapted its business model to the dynamics of the industry.”

But Llewellyn says it’s harder to pin down why so many sole entrepreneurs view blue as the most successful colour – it’s something the company wants to explore further.

“I think it’s really interesting, and our teams have been working on trying to better understand colour usage. We’re definitely going to be doing more research there.”

The other survey findings show small business is still yearning for good design. Four-fifths of small business owners consider the design of their logos and marketing materials as either “very important” or “important”, and 67% expect design to play a more significant role in business success in the next five years.

Affordability is an issue though: 65% of small business owners said they would pay up to $500 for a new custom logo; while 20% said they would pay as much as $1,000; and 15% said they would spend more than that.

More than 50% of those surveyed source design work in-house, while 21% use freelancers. 99designs, which has now become the biggest crowd sourced design site in the world, says it’s worth noting most businesses are still doing work in-house.

“Small business owners are saying design is important to them, but they’re indicating they don’t want to spend that much more. I think it’s very interesting 50% are doing it in-house.”

As for business’ favourite logos, Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and Google made the top, while Walmart, Microsoft, Pepsi, IBM and Google were panned.

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