THE GENIUS AND INSANITY OF YELLOW
Updated: Mar 11
This is an article “The Genius and Insanity of Yellow” by Marc Primo Warren
Most people may find yellow to be the color of happiness. Too much of it, perhaps, that some find it appropriate to label a mental asylum a “yellow house”, which is not at all surprising considering that many Russian psychiatric institutions used to be painted in the same hue in the old days. That’s because the color has been widely associated with negative connotations in the nation such as ‘yellow flowers’ for betrayal, ‘yellow tickets’ for prostitution IDs, and how mentally ill patients are issued yellow papers upon their release.
Russia isn’t the only nation that feels a shiver of pessimism when it comes to yellow. In China, it is the shade of pornography and in Mexico, its relative hue bright marigold is associated with death.
Despite all these, the color has also been widely associated with an artist’s genius in how Einstein picks it as his favorite among all others, while Van Gogh’s artworks, particularly his Sunflower series, were observed to be leaning towards the color in his later years.
So what does yellow really mean for us in terms of our mental faculties?
In one study about the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, it was observed that yellow was the prevailing color in most of the representatives’ artworks. It somehow captures our attention in a way that we associate it with warning or danger more than any other color combined with black, as evidenced by how most road signs and police lines are of the same color combination.
But going back to the genius of yellow, we can also see how the color’s shades pop out in the classical paintings of Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky who says it represents ‘spiritual warmth’. And it’s not merely how artists have used the color, but more of how it becomes the art. Even as early as the end of the 19th century, when the color was seen as the color of scandal and demi-monde, artists such as British painter J.M.W. Turner and French post-impressionist Georges Seurat have already anchored their works in yellow to express moods and emotions.
According to psychologists, yellow gives us both optimism and intensity, which is why we often feel strong emotions when we see images of the sun, political slogans and paraphernalia, and even in logo designs such as that of McDonalds or Best Buy. We are keen on looking out for yellow cabs and caution signs on traffic lights. Yellow is absolutely a head-turning, energetic, and warm color but also holds a lot of different meanings when placed in contextual form. It can also suggest aggression and frustration in how past studies have shown that babies cry in yellow nurseries or how there are more student fights in yellow-painted school walls and hallways.
How ever you use the color, the prevailing message it will convey depends on what complementing shades you put into your design, as well as the cultural background of your audience. In Western countries, yellow is seen to be a symbol of amusement, gentleness, and humor. On the other hand, in some Middle Eastern nations like Iran, it can be a sign of illness. With its broad meaning and mental effect, yellow indeed is a versatile color that can help you convey your messages across while getting all the attention it deserves. If you want to find out more about Marc Primo Warren our services or just say hi, please reach out here.