Creating with Yellow — Color Monday

“I was pleased with myself when I discovered that sunlight, for example, could not be reproduced, but that I had to represent it by some other means . . .  by color.”  —Paul Cézanne

So if we follow the theory that when we choose to use a specific color in a design project we send a message — whether it’s something about the product we're creating or our business, or to give our followers an idea of what’s important to us, what we believe in, or to create a feeling, an emotion — then Yellow is all about creating optimism, joy and awareness.

Yellow is idealistic and energetic, it’s friendly and yummy tasting and it’s aware. Yellow is a great color to use for displays because of its high visibility, or use it for a package design to ensure your products will call to people from the store shelves. Yellow isn’t subtle. No matter the shade or hue, it’s eye catching and can easily verge on loud and talkative.

Yellow is the second of the primary colors and it's complement {or opposite} on the color wheel is violet. As complementary pairings go, I think yellow and violet may be the most challenging to use together. Their “core” values are so different — violet believes in staying home with the kids, and yellow, well, yellow just always wants to be out at the biggest, funnest party.

Aside from their values though, they’re both intense colors and it takes some work to find or create a value balance that’s harmonious — which is not to say that you shouldn't try, the right balance and combo of these two colors is powerful and moving, but it takes a willingness to experiment.

Johannes Itten called yellow "bright knowledge" and violet "dark, emotional piety" — he was always looking for a true expressive blend of color — and his interpretations of these two colors' meanings, I think, is spot on.

So, if you’re considering using Yellow in a dominant way for your branding colors, or in a package design, here are a few things to ponder:

  • If you're wanting to catch someone's eye, yellow can be your go to color. Keep in mind though that depending on the product or brand, a lot of bright yellow can be tiring on the eyes after a bit, so you'll want to balance it with either its complement or another warm color
  • Consider combining yellow with black — a color combination that's found often in nature by way of the wasp, the tiger or other predatory animals — to create a bold presentation and to get a strong response.
  • In general, American culture tends to shy away from the greenish yellows in favor of the creamier, sun-baked yellows, while Asian cultures appreciate the chartreuses and lime yellow-greens.

What would you like to say with Yellow? How could it support your product or your brand? How can you use it to create an optimistic, energetic and radiant look for your project?