Yellow colour is the brightest of all the colours in the spectrum. It is the colour that captures our attention the most.
In nature, yellow is the colour of sunflowers and daffodils, egg yolks and lemons, canaries and bees. In our contemporary man-made world, yellow is the colour of SpongeBob, the Tour de France winner’s jersey, happy faces, post its and signs alerting us to danger or caution.
It is the colour of happiness and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, of sunshine and spring.
At its core is the dark side of yellow: cowardice, betrayal, selfishness and madness. In addition, yellow is the colour of caution and physical illness (jaundice, malaria and plague). It is perhaps no coincidence that the sources of yellow pigments are toxic metals – cadmium, lead and chromium – and urine.
Design with yellow colour
From web design to interior architecture, we are used to seeing shades of yellow in different dimensions of everyday life.
While there are strong mustard yellows and deep ochre yellows, there are no dark yellows.
When you add the black to the yellow you get a “dirty” green
Yellow is the only colour that reacts badly with black: If you add a little black to it, it becomes a sickly greenish-yellow.
The Yellow Colour in Advertising
As the colour of the sun, yellow puts a smile on your face. It is the most visible colour from a distance (which is why it is used for road signs) and communicates cheerfulness, friendliness, happiness and energy. It can also be associated with mental clarity and intellect. However, yellow is also a colour of caution, used for life jackets, police cordon tape and danger zones.
Some shades of yellow can look tacky – although this can fit with your brand image. So yellow is a great example of when to research consumer feedback on the appropriateness of the colour and make sure it’s the right colour for your product.
Depending on the sector you work in, it may be recommended to use yellow for your company or the opposite.
Use yellow sparingly to attract attention or to contrast with another colour.
Using yellow is good for businesses of:
- Energy (solar, electric…)
Using the yellow colour is bad for businesses of:
Global meanings for the yellow colour
The global similarities of yellow are significant:
- In almost all cultures, yellow represents sunshine, happiness and warmth.
- Yellow is the colour most often associated with deity in many religions (Hinduism and ancient Egypt)
- Yellow is the colour of traffic lights and signs indicating caution throughout the world.
Unique meanings of yellow in different cultures:
- In Japan, yellow often represents courage.
- In China, adult films are called yellow films.
- In Russia, a colloquial expression for an insane asylum used to be “yellow house”.
- “Marigold” yellow may be associated with death in some areas of Mexico.
- Death row inmates during the Inquisition wore yellow as a sign of treason.
- In the Middle Ages, a yellow patch was used to label Jews. European Jews were forced to wear yellow or yellow “Stars of David” during the time of Nazi persecution.
How the colour yellow affects vision
Yellow colour is the most visible colour in the spectrum.
The human eye processes yellow first. This explains why it is used for caution signs and emergency rescue vehicles.
Peripheral vision is 2.5 times greater for yellow than for red.
Yellow colour has a high light reflectance value and therefore acts as a secondary light source. Excessive use of bright yellow (such as on interior walls) can irritate the eyes.
Myths about the effects of yellow
It’s not true that babies cry more in yellow rooms, or that yellow causes diarrhoea, or that people fight more in yellow kitchens.
U.S. law prohibits coloring margarine to look like butter.