The Branded Spectrum

12 Mar

The Branded Spectrum: Yellow

By Jason Allen:

Without being prompted, it's hard to think of many logos that are yellow, isn't it? It's an unusual colour in the branding world because yellow's inherent qualities – joy, warmth, cheer, caution – aren't usually qualities we look to love in brands. One of the most striking things about yellow as a brand colour however, is that it's often used as a complement to other colours. There aren't many huge brands that have only-yellow logos. Most use it in conjunction with another colour. You might say yellow is the wingman colour. It's the colour you bring along with you as a date because of what its presence says about your own appeal.




Probably the most obvious category that yellow serves as a brand and logo colour is food, and specifically fast food. This category loves the combination of yellow and red. Our mouths water at seeing it. Is it because yellow feels inherently fatty? Ask McDonald's or Burger King, and then while you're at it, ask Denny's, Johnny Rocket's and Sonic, among others. Feeling hungry yet?




Another quality we automatically associate with yellow is 'functional'. Of all the colours, the combination of yellow and black offers the greatest contrast for reading and visibility. It's why police tape lines are yellow with black writing. Safety signs, street signs, no trespassing, construction signs – they're almost always yellow and black because they need to be functional and convey caution.




Because of this no-nonsense quality, brands often turn to the combination of these two colours to denote a value-based brand. A yellow and black logo tries to convince us the company doesn't spend money on visuals; they just want to save you money. Best Buy, Canadian grocer No Frills, Bulk Barn, the old logo for Payless Shoe Source, Fido (telecommunications) and Hertz rentals are a few logos that convey value.




The combination of yellow and black is also sometimes used for functional machinery and power tools, (not unlike the way orange and black are used as we discussed earlier in the Branded Spectrum: Orange.) No nonsense here, that's for sure.




One quirky but notable use of the colour yellow in recent years was in the rebrand of toilet and sink manufacturer, American Standard – a company that dates back to the 19th century. Having been through several mergers over 150 years, the brand was in need of a refresh for the 21st century and selected a yellow mark. Not to be crass, but it strikes me as an unusual choice for a toilet manufacturer. In a category of blues and greens, this yellow logo is an interesting and distinguishing choice, I'll give them that.


It would appear that yellow has greater appeal than I might have at first sight at first give it credit for. Yellow has its appeal, just usually not in its own right. It's a highlight to make you proceed with caution, or a visual pat of melting butter to make you turn off the road to order lunch. Keep your eyes out for what yellow logos you see in your day-to-day life. In fact, I would hope you'd keep your eyes out for logos of all colours, now that you're reading more about the branded spectrum.


Other yellow logos include: IKEA, Shell, Chupa Chups, Pennzoil, Spring, Nikon, Good Year, National Geographic, Schwepps, DHL, Ferrari, Lipton, Midas, Pledge, Batman, Lufthansa, Sun Chips, Bing, VIA Rail.


Jason Allen is a Toronto based copywriter. More by Jason Allen in the Branded Spectrum series


For more about Yellow check out All About Yellow


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