Tiffany blue. Coke red. McDonald's golden arches.
Color can be a powerful visual branding tool. Color plays on our emotions, and can shape how we feel about the businesses they represent. But the same basic color can be used to tell different brand stories.
Yellow is the happiest, most positive color. That happiness can be overpowering at times, or soft and comforting. Yellow makes us think of sunshine, flowers, and energy.
Because yellow has such strong and focused connotations, it can easily overpower more subtle messages and visuals, making it a fairly uncommon central color in visual brands.
Here's how three major brands are using yellow well.
By far the most iconic yellow logo, McDonald's golden arches first appeared in 1961 and we've been craving french fries ever since.
Their iconic yellow is paired with a ketchup-red. I wasn't kidding when I said the logo makes us crave french fries.
While yellow is used sparingly on their website to give focus to the food photography, anywhere where food photography isn't able to be used, you find the red and yellow, such as on the packaging and interior design.
Sprint has fully leaned into their brand yellow, using it boldly in all of their marketing. The Sprint visual brand can be reduced to product photography, and graphic yellow and grayscale illustrations.
They pair yellow with dark grays and black to make the yellow pop and grab attention.
Rather than building a feeling with yellow, Sprint almost exclusively uses it to bring drama to their visual brand, grab focus, and direct attention.
IKEA uses yellow in conjunction with a bold blue in equal measure. This bright pair is used to stand out from the furniture sold by the global manufacturer, as most of their products aren't in this color range.
The yellow, as well as the blue, is used for instructional and directional use, mostly in the stores.
Like Sprint, the yellow is used to grab attention and communicate important information, however, yellow works in a secondary role in the IKEA visual brand. We often associate brightly colored price labels with items being on sale. Because IKEA uses a bright yellow in the store for signage, it gives a subconscious feeling of everything being on sale, and every item being a good value.
A bold CHOICE
Even though these three brands use yellow to create different feelings, all of them use the striking quality of yellow to build a noteworthy visual brand.
McDonald's uses yellow to imply the idea of food when they can't use food photography.
Sprint uses yellow to create a very dynamic and striking visual brand.
IKEA uses yellow for easy-to-use wayfinding and instructions, and implies low prices.
Yellow may be a strong choice for your visual brand, and if used well that strength works for your business in grabbing and keeping attention.
I'm a brand designer who helps business owners who are tired of their marketing efforts just pulling "okay" results. I help them stand out and be remembered online by designing them a Noteworthy Visual Brand that attract their ideal clients - effortlessly.