Promoting the Color Blue
Everyone knows the Blue Man
Group. They are the sensational stage act with
a fifteen-year run. Founded by three blue-painted
extroverts performing on the streets of New York
City, Blue Man Group now delivers their multi-sensory
experience in NYC, Vegas, Boston, Chicago, and
even Berlin (now that's art). There are nearly
60 blue men performing today.
identity is enigmatic, engaging, thought-provoking,
and slightly intimidating. All of which
are words that we use to describe the Blue
Man character itself."
Quinn, Artistic Director
Like any growing organization, Blue Man Group
has developed a visual identity to accomplish
its goals. Unlike any other organization, that
identity is based on "three enigmatic bald
and blue characters." Sarah Seroussi talked
to Michael Quinn, Artistic Director at Blue Man
Group, about how this visual identity has evolved.
Q: Your overall identity at your site and in promotional
materials revolves around the color blue. Why was blue originally
chosen to be the skin color of the blue men?
Michael: Blue just felt right
on all counts. All other colors had some sort of connotation
that we didn’t want. Green was alien or Martian,
and it represents envy. Red is angry or has socio-political
connections. Black and white have racial connotations.
Yellow is jaundiced and sickly. Blue was perfect.
It represents serenity, calmness. It represents water,
the stuff of life. It is neutral, vibrant, and simple.
Untitled blue monochrome
(IKB 82), 1959. Dry pigment in synthetic resin on
canvas, mounted on board, 36 1/4 x 28 1/4 x 1 1/4
inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gift, Estate
of Geraldine Spreckels Fuller 1999. 2000.27. Yves
Klein © 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New
Q: What specific color is the
blue man color? Is it a custom paint color? And who chose
Michael: Technically the color
is IKB, International Klein Blue, which is a shade of ultramarine
developed by French visual artist Yves
Klein. Klein has had a major influence on our
work and the color seemed a natural choice both because
of its satisfying hue but also because the reference to
Klein himself seemed appropriate. Klein has a series
of monochrome paintings using this color and we often imagined
the Blue Man literally squeezing off these canvases. The
actual make-up is created for us custom. In the end
while it’s very close to IKB it sometimes tends a
bit more towards cobalt blue.
Q: Who developed your visual identity? Was it home-grown
or did you work with an agency?
Michael: It’s mostly home-grown.
Our visual identity developed out of the character itself.
People have never been able to describe the show verbally
and even using imagery from the live experience never really
captured our identity as well as a simple image of the Blue
Man. Our identity is enigmatic, engaging, thought-provoking,
and slightly intimidating. All of which are words that we
use to describe the character itself. The logo was
created in conjunction with a company called Performance
Media way back in the beginning of the project.
Q: Talking of your logo—it’s interestingly
weighted. The prominence of MAN somehow reinforces that
there are three characters. What is the significance/story
behind the way in which your logo is weighted? Is the white
Michael: When we think of Blue
Man we think of Hu-Man. The character is supposed
to be the barest essence of a human being, the acorn to
the oak tree. We don’t think of the Blue Man
as putting a mask on, we think of it as a human with all
the masks off. The logo is an attempt to capture that
sensibility. The “Man” is supposed to reinforce
the connection to humanity. It’s utilitarian
and simple in its edges and lack of serifs. We want
it to appear underground as though a tagger spraypainted
it on a subway wall. The white color was chosen simply to
make it pop out of the blue or black background. The words
themselves can be a variety of colors depending on the background.
We mainly stick to white, black, blue, or gray. We
have some other logos that we use for certain things such
as merchandise and specific collateral material, but the
“stack” logo is our main branding logo.
Q: How much time is spent color choreography during
Michael: The use of color
in our shows is obviously of major concern for us.
We like to think that in our best moments you could take
a photograph of any instant of the show and it would make
a pleasing and well-directed image. To that end we
try to choreograph as many of the elements onstage as possible.
Color is high on that list because we not only have lighting
to think about but we also usually have paint or something
flying around. In general our stage sets are black
or perhaps a dark grey so we want colors that stand out.
We have a basic palette that we work with in terms of paint
colors: Red, yellow, and lavender. We find that these
colors stand out against the blue heads the best. In general
our color schemes are based around what we think looks best
with the blue heads. For instance, we use very little
yellow/orange lighting onstage as it tends to turn the performers
a bit grey. Green is tough because it is generally
too dark and creates deep shadows and tones around the eyes
which are so important. We like to use indigo lighting
on the BM directly as it makes the blue paint glow.
We also use color to help tell the story or what we call
the “spine” of the show. We think of color
as representing the joy and elation of being connected with
other beings. The BM are trying to spread that connection
throughout the night. They want to share it with the
audience. At the end of the night if they are successful
then color will literally explode out of their chest as
they are overcome with the joy they are able to share with
the audience. In one piece the BM begin playing on
our instruments made out of PVC piping. At the beginning
of the song the pipes are their normal white color just
like what you have in your house. As the music builds
toward the big crescendo at the end the color of the tubes
begin to change. The tubes themselves change from
white to multi-color, again using our basic palette of red,
yellow, and lavender.
Hopefully the audience is feeling the build as they see
it. In our touring rock show we began the night in
almost pure white then added color throughout the night
as the audience began to “feel” more and more
of the joy, exuberance, and connection of the live, group
Q: What a beautiful way of talking about color!
Are the same color schemes then used in your promotional
Michael: Our promotional
materials follow some of the same guidelines but do allow
for some boundary crossing. We try to use vibrant
bold colors that capture the eye. We try to pick looks
that pierce through the “numbscape” that surrounds
all of us everyday. In Las Vegas, we introduced a
campaign that was shot entirely on a white void because
we found that white was able to stand out in the casino
which is one of the most Gaudy atmospheres on the planet.
In newsprint we often refrain from using the Blue Man at
all because so much of it ends up being black and white.
Black and white Blue Men look grey which is no good.
Instead we might simply use the logo in stark white to try
and pop off the paper. In magazines we often set the
Blue Men against a bright, almost neon background, so that
when you turn the page you can’t help but notice the
color which leads you to the Blue Men.