Color Theory: Yellow as a Branding Color
Understand the color theory of yellow to make the right choice for your branding and marketing
If you are considering yellow as a primary color for your brand, it’s a good idea to understand the color theory of yellow and cultural references that are associated with it.
It’s hard to have an all-yellow identity. Yellow is frequently paired with other colors in branding because it can be difficult to read yellow type. There are many brands that use yellow as an important accent color or as a prominent field of color with another color placed on top.
Color psychology: yellow is associated with warmth and cheerfulness
There is a warm, cheerfulness associated with yellow that likely comes from its connection to a sunny day. Cheerios, NesQuick and Chupa Chups lollipops all fall into this category. Denny’s, which is known for their breakfasts, likely gets you thinking about the idea of ‘rise and shine’ with a good breakfast.
Very recently, MailChimp updated its brand and yellow became their predominant color. Perhaps they felt the associations with friendliness paired well with their monkey theme? Or maybe it’s just because monkeys eat bananas and bananas are yellow.
Color psychology: yellow is associated with safety and caution
Because yellow is bright, it is associated with caution and safety signs. In these situations, yellow is used to alert us to something dangerous. The yellow caution tape or triangle sign helps us to avoid a problem. Yellow raises the alarm and then helps us to avoid danger. Through this association, yellow seems like a bold protector.
The Stanley tools logo seems to build off this association. Stanley wants to suggest that their tools are powerful yet effective. They are strong enough that you should take them seriously! The Caterpillar logo also shares similarities. Because these two brands have used yellow so successfully, yellow feels rugged and strong.
Best yellow logos and branding that stand out
There are far fewer brands that have made yellow a distinct part of their brand, compared to more popular brand colors like <blue>, <red> or <black>. Because yellow in branding is rare, the few companies that do use yellow have been very successful in creating a distinct visual identity. For these products and services, the yellow color has become an integral and memorable part of their logo, branding and marketing.
McDonald’s golden arches are one of the most recognized brand icons on earth, and their gold (and red) color scheme has been used consistently for years. Post-its started using yellow paper because it was the only scrap paper available, and while they offer lots of colors now, yellow is heavily associated with their brand. National Geographic’s yellow framed magazine is so recognizable that they are able to have a blank yellow box as their logo! The Tour de France awards the yellow jersey to the race leader and this has become a signature part of the bike race. A much more modern brand that has embraced yellow is Snapchat with its yellow ghost logo.
Each of these brands has dominated their fields using yellow. For example, any restaurant that decides to use a one-letter monogram and set it in yellow will be immediately compared to McDonald’s. So, it’s important to be aware of the associations that choosing a yellow logo may have for your own brand.
Is yellow right for your brand?
Finding the right color for your brand depends on what associations you want to come to mind when people see your brand. Overall, yellow brands come across as either cheerful or powerful and rugged. Depending on your specific business type, you may be associated with other famous yellow logos. Because yellow is less common, it can be a way to distinguish yourself from your competitors (unless they’ve already claimed the color themselves!).
Remember, you will likely have to choose another color—black or a more colorful option—to work with the yellow to ensure that your brand name is readable.
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