“And it’s yellow!” proclaims Betty Suarez on Ugly Betty when she is shopping for her first apartment. In that episode, she plans to move out of her family home into her first apartment. It’s part of her big plan to move her career and life to the next phase. Inside the space, she is charmed by the golden tone the realtor uses to brighten the New York loft.

That single statement carries so much meaning. Yellow is the “sign”. For a creative, bold girl moving to the city — the vibrant quirky energy radiates. Of course! Her apartment must be yellow.

I remember laughing out loud with glee at that moment because I too would fall head-over-heels for a space if it were painted a particular, cheerful yellow. And the shady NY real-estate agent would have gotten me too.

What is it about yellow that encourages our souls?

It may be the rareness or spare-ness of the tone. The color occurs often in nature but, only in spots. It’s in the center of a flower or a spot on a butterfly’s wing. The sun burns yellow. Pollen collects in yellow dustballs. But, we only see the full glory of yellow on yellow in fall.

In color theory, yellow is a tricky color. Tones of yellow are usually used to signal positive feelings. It’s a difficult tone to use because it doesn’t pop against white. Yellow must be layered on a darker color to really have a visual impact. Few big brands use it as their core color. It’s one of the least-used logo colors.

People usually associate this color with:

  • Competence
  • Happiness
  • Creativity
  • Food (Fast food chains)
  • Nature and Flowers

Example Brands

  • McDonald’s
  • Best Buy
  • Nikon
  • Livestrong

You don’t see it as a core color because it can be hard to integrate into a design. When used correctly, it feels fresh and signals positive feelings. Many people don’t look good wearing yellow. Recent photography trends veer toward cool over warm. So, you see it less than other tones.

The color shows up in my designs often. Yellow is impractical and I love it. It’s hard to get yellow tones exactly right. Perhaps that elusiveness is why I enjoy it.

If you liked this, check out the following color palette posts:

The Yellow Kid

Is there a color that feels more “now” than Mimosa?

Stealing Sunshine

Sunny Color Combinations