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THE SPECTRUM OF YELLOW IN BRANDS

Updated: Aug 12

This is an article “The Spectrum of Yellow in Brands” by Marc Primo Warren


What’s the first brand that comes to your mind when asked about the color yellow? Pretty difficult to come up with something isn’t it? In Color Psychology, yellow is associated with happiness, warmth, or caution and the surprising thing is that most brands don’t include it in their logos or ad materials as much as others. However, most professional designers know that this vibrant primary color can be used to complement and bring out the best in color design patterns. Simply put, behind most successful brands is the color yellow.



Imagine you went on a night out with your best friend. You spotted someone you like over the bar and muster the courage to go over and talk. But then, you need more support to boost your confidence so your best friend turns into a wingman and makes the introductions, while also laying out some of your best traits on the bar so that you can gain some recall.


That analogy is perfect when describing yellow as a brand’s wingman when it comes to highlighting other design features and giving more elements a boost. It creates appeal, makes your messaging clearer, and gives the overall design a certain commanding presence.


Yellow for fast food


Perhaps what works best with yellow are brands that are associated with food. Not the fine dining types, but fast food in particular.


Let’s play another game of word association, but this time with ‘yellow’ and ‘fast food’ in mind, Certainly, you’ll easily come up with McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Subway, right?


Combining yellow with other additive colors like red, green, and blue can stir our appetite for burgers, sandwiches, and rootbeer floats unlike any other color combinations. Yellow with red particularly, suggests a sort of guilty pleasure that tells us the product is both delicious and rewarding even though it’s not really the kind of meal that’s healthy for us, yet it works anyway.


Yellow for function


Yellow’s powers of suggestion are not exclusive to fast food alone. The color can also be associated with functionality in how we use it in directional signs, traffic lights, and safety signs. The main thing suggested by the color here is caution.


When you combine yellow with black, you create a contrast that’s also efficient in promoting visibility. This is why some reading mobile apps today have added night mode features featuring yellow (if not white) text against black. Combinations in extremes like this with yellow as a highlight color, also suggest simplicity, and money for value such as how you’d see them in brands like Best Buy, Walmart, or Bulk Barn.


Yellow for power and reliability


You simply can’t dismiss yellow as a simple color that’s associated with fun, low cost, and caution. Yellow with black can also suggest power and reliability such as when used in power tools and appliance brands like DeWALT, CAT, and Whirlpool. It does so much for the said designs in giving a brighter splash element unlike the way orange and black go together.


In 2013, the long-trusted American Standard brand of toilets and sinks rebranded their logo with the addition of yellow to suggest human connection, modern qualities, and ‘evidence of hand’ so that its target market could relate to the brand more effectively.


All of these simply tell us that when used the right way in design, yellow can create better appeal than most people would think. It’s a good highlighter for texts or visuals that embosses what you really want your audience to see and understand, or as additional color complements for your overall design. Yellow is definitely the perfect wingman to brands that truly need more confidence in making a mark in the realm of marketing.


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