One day, on a monotonous drive down I80, I suddenly snapped to attention, straightening my back and staring out the right window. The previously boring field had transformed itself into miles of beautiful, tall sunflowers.
Their giant heads nodded gently to all the cars passing by, as if paying respects or giving a solemn greeting. I wanted to stop and pull over, leap out of the car and pick some of those sunflowers and bring them home. I had gone from tired and bored to energized in seconds, sighing deeply as I took in the beauty. There was a sense of quiet happiness as I drove by them and a bit of sad longing when they were no longer in my sight.
I leaned back and sighed. There was something about those tall yellow flowers that made me happy from head to toe.
When used to its advantage, yellow can add a dose of warmth to your business style. But without realizing it, yellow can create some problems.
How People Respond to Yellow
One of the intriguing things about color psychology is how people respond subconsciously to different colors and color combinations.
There are two major responses yellow elicits. First, as I experienced with the field of deep yellow sunflowers, yellow is a happy and energizing color.
Yellow lemons, lemonade, honey, the smiley face, yellow daffodils, a favorite yellow sundress, big bunches of yellow daisies. Lots of happy, energetic things, right?
Second, yellow serves as a warning. Our minds might naturally go to the yellow traffic light, warning of the red light coming. Go back to nature and consider yellow’s role as warning sign. The bumble bee and yellow jacket’s bright colors warn us to stay away. The California rattlesnake, besides its ominous rattle, is a dusty yellow ochre color. Other snakes and poisonous frogs are striped and spotted with yellow, warning others to be wary of them or suffer the consequences.
Most people use yellow in excess (in a way that repels people rather than draws them in) or when in an unintended warning.
You Might Be Over Dosing on Yellow in 3 Ways:
1. Adding too much yellow into your brand when your primary brand values aren’t friendliness, community and warmth can create an inconsistent message.
Constantly ask yourself, “what do I want people to feel when they look at this? When they receive my magazine in the mail? When they open the subscription box? Or see my Instagram feed?”
The vividness of yellow creates strong feelings. If your core values don’t correlate with the color yellow, use it as a complementary color, not the show stopper.
2. Yellow may create a sense of warning about your business, service, book, etc. when that’s not the intention.
This quality may make yellow the ideal color to use if you’re a health business and you want to warn your audience about harmful ingredients, but not so good if you want people to sign up for something. Yellow signals a warning, a reason to hesitate and consider if the thing in front of them is ‘safe’ or not.
This makes yellow not ideal to use on or around ‘buy’ or ‘subscribe’ buttons or in excess when you want people to take a forward action towards committing or making a purchase.
3. Too much yellow can seem overly happy and therefore, disengenuine.
When you choose an outfit to wear to a big interview or presentation, one doesn’t pick out the yellow jumpsuit! Likewise, if we are trying to create a take-me-seriously, credible business persona, too much yellow (or too warm of a yellow) may cause people to NOT take you seriously.
Remember, we respond to colors often on a very subconscious level.
Yellow in the Seasonal-Archetypes
Do you think yellow would be a wonderful addition to your business brand style? There are an infinite amount of hues, intensities and ways to use yellow in each seasonal archetype. As a rule, here are the guidelines for yellow as part of the seasonal archetypes.
Spring-linked yellows. These are the happiest of yellows, the kind of yellow found in the Crayola 8-pack crayon box.
Names of spring -linked yellow include primary yellow, Meyer lemon yellow, sunshine yellow.
Summer-linked yellows. These yellows are cool by nature and softer in color. Think of the fields that begin to fade in the summer heat. There are no extremes in the summer palette, so the yellows here are a softer variety of the spring yellow, as if someone mixed white paint into it.
I often think of summer yellows as either the yellow used in newborn clothing, soft and understated or the yellow weed flowers on my long walks in the fields during the summer months.
Summer linked yellow colors include: soft-yellow, yellow flowers, sunflower yellow (when they begin to fade)
Autumn-linked yellows are the robust yellows. Think of nature in the fall and the beautiful colored gourds and squashes. Sunflowers merge between spring and autumn-linked yellow, both are warm and the difference lies in how much the color is muted.
Yellows in autumn include: yellow ochre, orange-yellow, deep yellow, mustard, poppy (depending on how much red, it can feel more yellow-ish).
Gold is not exactly yellow, yet it kind of is! Yellow gold speaks of richness, joy (in finding it); it’s a muted, darker yellow and belongs in the autumn-linked palette.
Look at these pictures of Clinique products. Both use yellow, but in very different ways. The advertisement for Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster is a gorgeous, almost gold-yellow, belonging in the autumn-linked archetype. When I place the add with the spring Clinique brand, both shine.
But when I place the neon colored bag and products with the ad, do you notice how they don’t merge as well. It looks “off,” and the reason is that they yellows are different.
Finally, I take away the advertisement and include the products in the Clinique bonus with the matching tote. It all goes together. Thought it’s obviously a summer motif and design with the fruit, I would call it a winter-linked color scheme. The colors are cool and bold with a good amount of substance to them. Plus, they look amazing with the stark black (mascara and accents) and white where as a true summer-linked palette would be flattered with beige and navy accents.
Winter-linked yellows. Of all the seasons, you’ll find the least yellow in this realm. If there is yellow in winter, it is going to be a neon, very bright yellow (such as in the Clinique design). Winter colors are cool and bold; it’s hard to get a cold yellow.
Yellows in winter-linked palette’s include a cold yellow.
Business that Use Yellow Beautifully
Check out Yellow.co, a beautiful brand that is all about engaging women who are starting businesses that have a social justice component. They have a strong social media presence, host an annual live conference and a membership site. They are all about friendship, community and engagement. Check out how they use yellow in their website or Instagram feed.