How Colors Speak: Yellow Makes Babies Cry

If there’s anything to be learned from color, it’s that it is extremely vast. The visual and mental associations are virtually endless. We saw this with blue, red and green, as we merely scratched the surface of how those colors speak. As we continue to examine color’s significance within culture and business, we will explore the last of the primary colors – yellow. From vibrant to mellow, yellow can direct communication in a powerful way. Just like any color, understanding yellow and its associations is essential to unleashing its fullest potential.


There are some general, positive associations with yellow that just can’t be ignored. From young ages, it is engrained into our minds that yellow is the color of the sun, and what does the sun represent? Warmth. Light. Happiness. Over time, we come to associate the color yellow with these things – warmth, light, and happiness – making it an overall positive color. Furthermore, yellow is associated with imagination, energy, optimism, glory and respect.

On the other hand, yellow can draw some negative associations. When intense, it is associated with flames. Some shades of yellow are associated with cowardice. Studies show that babies cry more in bright yellow rooms. And tempers are more likely to flare around yellow. Every color has its pros and cons, but yellow’s gap might be the greatest.


A more uncommon yellow association is that of remembrance. It stimulates mental activity. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that when we record and read something back from a pastel shade of yellow paper, we have a better chance of remembering it. It’s no wonder why the Yellow Pages chose yellow for their brand's strategy. In addition, the most common color for post-its and legal pads is yellow. That’s no coincidence; yellow calls for attention, while at the same time highlighting the content that’s on it, making it the perfect color for making a note.


Too much or too little of anything can have an adverse effect. Yellow is no exception. Of all the colors, yellow is most stressful on the eye because of the high amount of light that is reflected off of it. The use of yellow as a background on paper or computer monitors can lead to strain and stress on the eye. Too much yellow can cause the inability to focus, as it can be too distracting. In large amounts, it makes people irritable and argumentative (which may explain the disposition of New York City cab drivers). On the other hand, a lack of yellow is associated with a lack of light and can give one the feeling of being isolated. Not having a sufficient amount of yellow can result in a person becoming rigid, cunning, possessive and even overly defensive. When using yellow in professional marketing, a careful balance must be nurtured in order to make your consumers feel accepted, but not overwhelmed.


Color adds life to design, especially yellow. As we’ve seen, there are certain ways in which yellow communicates that others colors simply can not. Yellow can be quickly overpowering if over-used, but used sparingly in the just the right place (and with the right complements) it can be an effective tool in marketing to greater sales. Although not a common brand color (in comparison to blue or red), yellow has been a successful platform on which some of the world’s most recognizable brands have been built.

With its red border, Shell’s well known corporate identity makes a bold statement, is eye-catching and, in a way, distracting. An historic mark, associations to prestige and corporate reputation can be made.

Best Buy
This brand’s use of a yellow tag plays off the idea that their low prices will draw attention. The yellow, therefore, becomes synonymous with low cost without compromising a sense of expertise and intellect.

Perhaps one of the most memorable examples of yellow in corporate branding, McDonald’s “golden” arches are symbolic of a golden standard – a consistent level of quality that can be experienced and respected all over the world.

Associated with optimism and quickness, Subway’s use of yellow communicates in a fresh way, especially with its incorporation of green. Their yellow solidifies their position as a respected, healthier alternative to most fast food chains.


There are many more associations to make with yellow. The conversation could go on and on about its impact on our minds and attitudes. So, why not continue the conversation? Share some of your experience with the color yellow. Has it been positive or negative? What are some other associations with yellow that we didn’t talk about? As you may know, each week we feature a distinct color on our Facebook page. Check out this week’s color of the week and see how it speaks. Look for some examples of yellow! Stay tuned as we continue to explore the complex nature of a specific color each month and its impacts on our attitudes within today’s culture and economy.

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