Yellow – Happy and Optimistic

One of the things people remember first about a brand is it’s colour choices. In this series of articles, we’ll be looking at what each colour says about a brand, how it makes people react and what message it sends. This article looks at the colour yellow and the brand messages it promotes.



Yellow is a primary colour and is a warm colour. Warm colours are so called as they remind us of things that are hot – fire or the sun, for example.



Being the colour most associated with happiness, yellow promotes a sense of optimism. It is a happy colour and as such is used to give a sense of hope. As it exudes light, it reminds people of the sun. It is a colour closely associated with creativity and social communication.


Where red is a bold colour that draws attention, it is actually yellow that our eyes process first within the spectrum. It is used in construction and nature as a cautionary colour, to draw attention to potential hazards. It is also unique as there are no dark yellows, hence it’s position as the most vibrant colour.


Yellow Brands

Optimism, energy and attention are the key aspects of brands that use a significant amount of yellow. Like red, it can be used to increase appetite and has an obvious use for fast food brands. Additionally, brands in the construction may use yellow in it’s ‘caution’ aspect, often with black to evoke high contrast chevrons.





The Caterpillar logo uses yellow to show joy and optimism. As their heavy vehicles are also this shade of yellow, it leans into their brand identity. This choice of colour is also particularly fitting as these vehicles can be dangerous if caution is not taken around them. Additionally, the use of a heavy black contrast gives the impression of chevrons to add to this warning.





Hunger is the feeling of the day with McDonald’s logo. The Golden Arches are synonymous with the company. They are one of the most recognisable brands in the world as well as being the world’s most successful fast food company. Originally modelled on the arches that formed part of their first restaurant, this bright yellow ‘m’ now promotes happiness.


National Geographic


National Geographic’s primary message is one of inspiration. Yellow is a bright, creative colour and as such is seen as the most inspiring colour. It also represents the sun, without which there could not be life on our planet. Wisdom and knowledge are also key aspects of National Geographic’s message and yellow is commonly associated with these.


Tips for using yellow


As with any colours, it is important to understand what your brand message is and whether your colour choices complement this. Yellows spread messages of clarity and warmth – optimism is a key factor here and so brands that wish to appear exciting should look at using it. At it’s best, it is creative and confident, inspiring both fun and creativity through its brightness.


The negatives that yellow can portray include cowardice, but also impatience and impulsiveness. It is also has a tendency to induce anxiety, so those trying to promote a calm brand should avoid it. It has fewer shades than other colours so is a little less versatile.


Again, it is important to remember that different parts of the world view this colour in a different light. The Japanese see it as a colour of courage in direct contrast to the western idea that it shows cowardice. All across eastern Asia it is also the colour of royalty and the sacred.


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