CREATIVE & DESIGN / BRAND STRATEGY
Big Teal: Why it’s the hottest colour in design
“Our crack design team has noticed a perplexing aesthetic trend. It seems like every brand and their dog wants some teal in their visual identity. So, we asked the question: what’s the deal with teal?”
Teal. A humble colour, yet one that’s come to dominate design palettes the world over. But where did teal come from? Why is it here? And what does all this teal hysteria mean? We put our detective hats on and went hunting for answers.
The History of Teal
Teal is a member of the cyan or green-blue colour group. The name comes from the Eurasian teal, a variety of freshwater duck with a brilliant teal stripe splashed across its face. In reference to a colour however, the first recorded use of the word was in 1927.
In the 80s, teal started to come into its own. It was popularised by the influential postmodernist design and architecture movement, the Memphis Group. Teal went on to be one of the 16 original web colours in 1987, as defined by HTML. This further cemented teal as something of a design classic.
Teal in branding really exploded in the 90s, with a prevalent place in graphic design in contexts ranging from disposable cups (you know the ones) to sports teams – really a lot of sports teams. In fact, in the major US men’s leagues alone, there were 13 teams that featured teal in their uniform during the 90s’.
The Psychology of Teal
Teal and its cyan cousins are the children of colours holding positive associations: feelings of nature, friendliness and happiness. Somewhere between blue and green, teal is a balanced colour that carries a feeling of stability and harmony. There’s a sense of the ideal to teal – the best of both worlds.
In terms of branding and marketing, cyan colours are favoured by brands specialising in a broad range of areas, from communication, education, media, and computer technology, cleaning products and pharmaceuticals. Balance comes to teal’s aid again here – it’s fun yet sophisticated, clean without being sterile.
In psychological terms, the colour is placed as being both introverted and self-expressive. For this reason, teal is said to heighten creativity and sensitivity, being appreciated by people who are open-minded and welcoming to things that’re a bit different. Meanwhile, the balance and stability of teal gives it an air of trustworthiness and reliability. The calming naturality even lends the colour an essence of spirituality. Namaste.
The Appeal of Teal Today
We’re now in something of a 90s-revival period in design. Comebacks can be seen for everything from bum-bags and bucket hats in fashion, to minimalism and wallpaper in interiors. So, perhaps teal having a recent resurgence in popularity in graphic design appears as part of the same renaissance.
According to many polls, blue and green compete for the title of world’s favourite colour. They’re the Brangelina of the spectrum, with teal as the perfect middle ground, the happy medium, the sweet spot.
In times so unstable, in a society so divided, the appeal of teal makes a lot of sense. We can look to the colour for solace, a source of much needed tranquillity and harmony. Whilst it seems we can’t agree on much these days (see politics), at least the world can agree on one thing – teal is a very nice colour.
Now we’ve established that teal is everywhere, and we’ve done a bit of unpacking to find out why. To conclude, I wanted to know what all this means for the people on the front lines, the ones dealing with teal, day in, day out…
I asked our design team for their feels on teal – and the response was fiery. “It’s sadistic!” they said, “Everybody wants to use it all the time, but it’s the worst colour to print with, hands down!”
Well. The internet was less helpful in getting to the bottom of that mystery. I can’t tell you why teal is annoying to print with. But I can tell you that it looks like the teal-trend will be around for a while yet. Sorry, uberbrand designers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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