All about Yellow

Yellow is the third primary colour and the most versatile colour of all. Whilst red is hot and blue is cold, yellow is about everything in between. And as for any other colour, yellow has many conflicting associations.

In China, yellow is the colour of Chinese emperors. Beginning with the legend of The Yellow Emperor, also known as the Yellow God, who is said to have started Chinese civilization. Yellow is the most beautiful and prestigious colour connected with gold and wealth, yin and yang – the centre of everything. The colour of glory, harmony and good luck.


In Japan, yellow is the colour of heroism. Japanese 16th century warriors wore chrysanthemum flowers in battle as a badge of courage. Later the yellow flower became a symbol of the country itself. It is strongly connected to the Imperial Family, its Chrysanthemum Throne and the Imperial Seal of Japan. Today yellow chrysanthemum is considered the country’s national flower.


Yellow is the colour of anti-Semitism and the colour of xenophobia and prejudice, most recently in the 20th century when the Jewish were ordered by the Nazis to wear the yellow Star of David. This was influenced from the 16th century when Pope Paul IV ordered the Jewish to wear yellow hats (Judenhut). A practice implemented even earlier under the French king, Louis the IX in the 13th century. The English king, Edward I required the Jewish to wear a yellow patch during his reign.

Amber, banana, butter, cheddar, daffodil, lemon, mustard, nugget, ochre, egg yolk, sun, sunflower, cream, mellow yellow, canary yellow, chrome

In 7th century Medina under Islamic rule, both Jews and Christians were required to be marked out by yellow badges. This practice was also applied to Hindus in Afghanistan where yellow become the colour of non-believers.

In modern Poland, the yellow daffodil has now become a symbol of remembrance associated with the extermination of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.

The colour of homecoming. Canadian and American women waiting for their husbands, lovers, sons and fathers returning from war wore yellow ribbons.

Yellow is the colour of sunshine and the colour of summer. Hues of yellow create most of the summer palette seen in the sun, flowers and fruits.

Yellow is the colour of happiness and the colour of hope. Warm and happy it creates a sense of cheerfulness, optimism and playfulness.

Yellow is happy. Happiness as seen in the bright yellow smiley face graphic or emoji. This was created by designer Harvey Ball in 1963 as an optimistic message for employees of an insurance company from Worcester, Massachusetts.

In the 80’s ‘the Smiley’ lost its mainstream positivity when it was associated with the acid house music cult, described in the press as the ‘Evil of Ecstasy’ – electronic dance music, both hands in the air, paired with pills with a printed smiley on top.

Yellow is relaxation. The colour of relaxation and reflected in popular music. ‘Yellow Submarine’ by The Beatles and ‘Mellow Yellow” by Jason Donovan, representing being cool, laid back and having fun.

Yellow is spontaneous.

It is a go to colour for children’s products and marketing advertisements aimed at children. Perceived by people as a childish colour, yellow should not be used when marketing products to prestigious or wealthy men.


Bright yellow is the colour of getting attention. Used in combination with black, it creates one of the easiest colour connections to read and see from long distances. This is why school buses, taxi cabs, and caution traffic signs are painted yellow.


Nature created a danger warning system based on the combination of yellow and black. Yellow is the colour of caution. Bees, wasps, snakes and fish have yellow stripes to warn they are poisonous. Humans use yellow signs as warning systems for areas where there is poison, toxic materials or radiation. Yellow is the colour of safety and accident prevention, often used on hazard symbols, dangerous equipment, personal protective equipment and traffic signs.


Around the world, yellow has become the colour of disreputable journalism. The phrase yellow journalism or yellow press references bad or irresponsible

Yellow is the colour of sickness – at sea, the yellow flag indicates quarantine, people suffering from jaundice turn yellow.

Yellow ribbons, sashes and roses become the colour of protest in 19th century America, the trend started by American suffragettes. 21st-century democratic protesters in Hong Kong adopted yellow as the colour of defiance via yellow ribbons and umbrellas.


Yellow books in China are pornographic ones – the usage being similar to that of blue for erotic movies in the west.


Yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honour, and joy.

On the negative, it represents cowardice and deceit; whilst a dull or dingy yellow may represent caution, sickness, and jealousy.


Yellow thinking by Creative M Studio.

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