YELLOW color – history and values
YELLOW color – history and values. Article by Executive Director of RUNWAY MAGAZINE Guillaumette Duplaix.
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Have you noticed this ambivalence in the interpretation of YELLOW? It is a primary straightforward color.
Since the XIXth century YELLOW has rarely been cited as a favorite color, especially in France and United States.
In Europe, according to a survey carried out in 2000 in Europe and United States, the order of preference is established as follows:
History & Symbolism of YELLOW
It shines ! Symbol of wisdom, glory… Color of the sun. Yellow is the color of ambivalence and contradiction. Associated with optimism and fun. But since the last 2000 years the YELLOW also represented betrayal, duplicity and jealousy. Because it was widely available, the YELLOW ocher pigment was one of the first colors used in art.
In the Roman Catholic Church YELLOW symbolized gold, and the golden key to the Kingdom of Heaven, which Christ gave to Saint Peter.
The flag of Vatican City and the Pope’s colors are YELLOW and white, symbolizing the Golden Key and the Silver Key. White and YELLOW can also symbolize Passover, rebirth and resurrection. Golden aureoles mark Saints in religious paintings.
The negative meaning of YELLOW, symbolizing betrayal, based on Biblical story about Judas, who was dressed in yellow, when he betrayed Jesus Christ.
In Islam YELLOW color, the color of gold, symbolized wisdom.
In Hinduism the deity Krishna is usually depicted wearing YELLOW. YELLOW and saffron are also the colors worn by Sadhu, or holy men wandering in India. The all-powerful and divine Hindu god, Lord Ganesha or Ganpati, is mostly dressed in a dhotar in YELLOW, popularly known as the pivla pitambar and considered the most auspicious.
The color of the robes also varies somewhat between different schools of Buddhism depending on their doctrines and the dyes. Monks in Mahayana Buddhism, practiced primarily in Japan, China, and Korea, wear light YELLOW or saffron, which often white or black.
In the religions of Polynesia YELLOW is a sacred color, the color of divine essence. The word “YELLOW” in local languages is the same as the name of the plant curcuma longa, which is considered the food of the gods.
In China and other parts of Asia, yellow is a color of virtue and nobility. YELLOW has strong historical and cultural associations in China, where it is the color of happiness, glory and wisdom. In China there are five directions of the compass : north, south, east, west and middle, each with a symbolic color. YELLOW color symbolizes the middle. China is called the “Middle Kingdom”. The Emperor’s palace was considered like exact center of the world.
The legendary first Emperor of China was called the YELLOW Emperor.
The Chinese Emperor was literally seen as the heavenly child with both political and religious roles, both symbolized by YELLOW. Only members of the Imperial Family were allowed to wear YELLOW. Distinguished visitors were honored with a YELLOW carpet, not a red one.
During Antiquity the Romans wore YELLOW for official ceremonies. Greece and the Roman republic adopted YELLOW, as a beautiful color, a sign of wealth, prosperity (color associated with gold), fertility, heat, light, joy! Unfortunately in Rome for unknown reasons YELLOW depreciates and becomes an avoidable color. In the theater, for example, it is the color of the freed, upstarts, effeminate and hypocrites.
From the XIIth century gold gradually became “good” YELLOW, and a sign of wealth, beauty, prosperity, associated with divine worship. But the negative aspects still remain in YELLOW: lies, hypocrisy, betrayal… And in France the YELLOW color symbolized the traitors.
During World War II, the Nazis used YELLOW as the color of infamy by forcing Jews to wear the Star of David in this color. They were not the first in the history in this initiative.
Saint Louis forced the Jews to wear a YELLOW garment as a sign of betrayals. In the XVth and XVIth century the doors of the traitors were painted YELLOW.
From the XIIIth century YELLOW is a constantly imposed on Jews in Western countries to identify them in the midst of Christians. You can see the roots of the YELLOW star there. The YELLOW patch sewn to the garment is in the shape of a “rouelle” (a wheel-like amulet, intended to symbolize the sun), parallelogram (quadrilateral with two pairs of parallel sides), star or other – the uses vary according to the region and era.
YELLOW and PAINTERS
Franz Xaver Winterhalter (April 20, 1805 – July 8, 1873) was a German painter and lithographer, best known for his portraits of royalty in the middle XIXth century. His name became associated with the fashionable court portrait.
Around 1776 Jean-Honoré Fragonard painted “A Young Girl Reading”. She is wearing a bright YELLOW saffron dress. This painting is “considered by many critics to be Fragonard’s most seductive and masterful”.
The XIXth century British painter JMW Turner was one of the first in this century to use YELLOW to create moods and emotions.
The painter Vincent van Gogh was a particular admirer of the YELLOW, the color of the sun. Van Gogh was one of the first artists to use commercially made paints, rather than paints he made himself. It used traditional YELLOW ocher, but also chrome YELLOW, made in 1809, and cadmium YELLOW, made in 1820.
The BAUHAUS movement
The Bauhaus movement was created in 1919 and ended in 1933 under Nazi pressure. This movement aimed to synthesize art, design and several forms of technology to create functional objects. A movement that marked the XXth century. Johannes Itten was the first to design in 1919 an educational program on colors, shapes and materials to be used. YELLOW naturally took its place in this movement under the name of “York Yellow”.
Johannes Itten resigned in 1922, followed Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky who were teaching the synchronization of colors and shapes. It is a connected universe of colors, shapes, filled with poetry, multiple emotions that has emerged from the work of these two artists.
YELLOW and COMMUNICATION
At the end of the XIXth century, in 1895 a new form of folk art began to appear in New York newspapers – colored comics. One of the first characters in the new comic was a humorous New York street boy named Mickey Dugen, more commonly known as the Yellow Kid, by his YELLOW nightgown.
“It’s YELLOW, it’s ugly, it doesn’t go with anything, but it can save your life.”
Does that remind you of something?
This is the slogan heard by all French people in 2008, carried by French road safety. Our eternal Karl Lagerfeld gave life and success to this communication.
Communicating with YELLOW is delicate. You present something positive, joy but also betrayal, lie. “Marketers” recommend it for brands to represent speed.
YELLOW is the most visible color from a distance, so it is often used for objects that must be seen, such as fire trucks, road maintenance equipment, school buses and taxis. It is also often used for warning signs, since YELLOW traditionally signals caution, rather than danger. Safety YELLOW is often used for information about safety and accident prevention. A YELLOW light on a traffic light means slow down, but not stop.
During football matches the referee shows a YELLOW card to indicate that a player has been officially cautioned for committing a fault or for wasting time.
In USA, like in some other countries, taxis are YELLOW. The practice began in Chicago where taxi entrepreneur John D. Hertz painted his cabs YELLOW, after reading a pamphlet on colors from University of Chicago, according to which YELLOW was found the most visible color from a distance.
School buses in Canada and the United States are almost uniformly painted YELLOW (often referred to as “YELLOW school bus”) for visibility and safety purposes, and UK bus operators such as FirstGroup are trying to introduce the concept.
In the rules of the road YELLOW (“Amber” in Great Britain) is a traffic light signal meaning “slow down”, “attention”. It is intermediate color between green (go) and red (stop). In railway signaling YELLOW is often the color for warning, slowing down, and distant signals.
The first Kodak logo appeared in 1907. It was a black and white “EKC” company name badge set in a circle. In 1935, the colors RED and YELLOW were introduced. The logo featured the word “Kodak” (in red letters) on the YELLOW background. The logo was shaped like a landscape.
In cycling the YELLOW jersey is awarded to the leader of a race. The tradition began in the Tour de France where the sponsoring newspaper L’Auto (later L’Équipe) was printed on distinctive YELLOW newsprint.
The YELLOW immediately recognizable on each bottle of Brut Carte Jaune, Veuve Clicquot. Symbol more than a century old YELLOW evokes the heritage of the House, the constant search for innovation and the audacity that characterizes it.
From 1850 Madame Clicquot agreed to create a first label, white and minimalist, convinced of the benefits that the House would derive from it for its worldwide influence. This is a first revolution in the world of champagne, which will quickly call for another.
From the middle of the XIXth century and the development of a so-called “dry” champagne (less sugar content), Veuve Clicquot decided to dress its bottles in a color that would differentiate them from other champagne: it was the birth of the YELLOW label in 1877.
In 1945 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Sec was renamed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut, thus becoming the only YELLOW Card that we know today and whose tradition continues 140 years later. This YELLOW color quickly became an inseparable identity code of Maison Veuve Clicquot.
Several hypotheses exist on its origin, but one thing is certain: Veuve Clicquot, with this visual innovation, in its time disrupted practices, defining the premises of marketing.
REPRODUCTION OF YELLOW
YELLOWS are the colors with a dominant wavelength between 573 nanometers and 584 nm, which have medium to high clarity. The highest dominant wavelengths are those of YELLOW tending towards orange, such as golden YELLOW. On the other hand the shorter wavelengths correspond to YELLOWS tending towards green, like lemon YELLOW.
In additive synthesis YELLOW and shades of orange are obtained by mixing the primary colors red and green, with a small amount of blue primary if they are not saturated. Their colorimetry depends on those of the initials, which vary according to the technology used, and their exact proportions.
With an sRGB screen, YELLOWs according to AFNOR X08-010 add red 0.64 to 0.91 times.
In subtractive synthesis, that is to say mainly in color silver photography and color printing, YELLOW is one of the three primary colors with cyan and magenta.
Small reminder of the definition of primary colors:
We speak of “primary between them” colors if none can be reproduced by a mixture of other colors. These primary colors are not monochromatic and cover the entire visible light spectrum.
The primary colors of subtractive synthesis are different from that of additive synthesis. These are cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY) colors. In the case of additive synthesis, the primary colors are red, green and blue (RGB).
In subtractive synthesis, primary colors are not defined by a wavelength. The extent of the visible spectrum is divided into three areas, corresponding to red, green and blue.
Subtractive primary colors are ideally suited to filters that block out the area of the complementary color, letting everything else pass through.
The YELLOW filter blocks the lights in the blue area, letting the lights in the red area and the green area pass through.
In printing, the three primary colors of subtractive synthesis, together with black, form the basis of four-color printing, CMYK coded (cyan, magenta, YELLOW, black).
The ISO 2846 standard, which fixes the spectral absorption curve and the transparency of inks to allow uniform four-color reproduction, precisely defines the YELLOW primary.
In the 1960s, Pickett Brand developed the “Eye Saver Yellow” ruler which was produced with a specific yellow color (Angstrom 5600) that reflects wavelength rays and promotes optimal eye tracking to prevent eye strain and improve visual precision.
YELLOW and SOCIETY
Today YELLOW is gaining territory.
The YELLOW color made a sensational entry with the “yellow vests” in France. If this fluorescent YELLOW made sense it was first of all because everyone owns this YELLOW vest and it has become the ideal standard for people who represent the social anger.
YELLOW is also back in entertainment with Pokémon and especially the Minions!
Pokémon Go is a 2016 Augmented Reality (AR) mobile game developed by Niantic in collaboration with The Pokémon Company for iOS and Android devices. As of early 2019 the game had over 1 billion downloads worldwide and grossed over 3 billion $.
After creating a game account players create and customize their own avatars. Once created, an avatar is displayed on a map based on the player’s geographic location. Features on the map include “Poké Stops” and “Pokémon Gyms”. As players move around their real environment, their avatars move around the game map.
Although the game is free to play, it does support in-app purchases, where players can purchase additional Poké Balls and other in-game items.
In July 2017, Raid Battles were introduced. In January 2018, Pokémon Go hosted the First Community Day, a new monthly feature that would increase the spawn rate of a specific Pokémon and offer exclusive movement only available to Pokémon captured or evolved during the Community Day window.
The Minions are the fictional characters who appear in Despicable Me which started in 2010. They are characterized by their childish behavior and their unique language which is sometimes almost intelligible. They are also the official mascots of Illumination, a division of Universal Pictures, which produces the films.
YELLOW has even been introduced into Coworking spaces, impulsing dynamism.
YELLOW & FASHION
In 1903 Paul Poiret removed the petticoat and three years later the corset. His actions freed the woman from all physical restraint. Paul Poiret drew his inspiration from the Japanese kimono, the Greek chiton and baggy pants from the Middle East. Thanks to Paul Poiret’s creations the YELLOW color will establish itself in fashion under the name Yolk Yellow for Paul Poiret. According to Paul Poiret the choice of shades from other designers was dull, boring to death… His quote confirms his opinion: “The ray of sunshine in my pastels is like a new dawn”.
The Hawaiian shirt
Hawaiian shirt is the symbol of relaxed attire in the United States. The history of the Hawaiian shirt, also known as the “Aloha shirt” begins in the 1930s, Hawaiian shirts started to be produced commercially and continue to this day.
The pioneer of the “Aloha Shirt” is a Waikiki from Honolulu, a Chinese merchant named Mr. Ellery Chun. Mr. Chun was the owner of the famous King Smith Clothiers et Articles de Haberdashery store. With the help of his sister Ethel Chun Lum, he began to shape the history of the Hawaiian shirt.
Ethel Chun Lum makes the first floral, brightly colored, short sleeve shirt that consists of the kimono fabric. On July 15, 1963 Mr. Chun registered his own company with “Aloha” under the trade name, and it was then that he began to manufacture printed shirts. Back then shirts were extremely popular and sold mainly to local residents, surfers, tourists and beach-loving boys.
The “Aloha” shirt first appeared in an advertisement in the Honolulu newspaper on June 28, 1935 “Aloha Shirt” as the title.
The Hawaiian shirt became very popular in the 1940s, 1959 thanks to celebrities like Elvis Presley, Franck Sinatra, Montgomery Cliff and even Mr. Truman, President of the United States.
Today it remains the symbol of the relaxed attitude in USA.
The FASHION picks any color including YELLOW.
The observation on this approach carried out by certain designers, is made with two interpretations:
1 °) Use of YELLOW without cultural knowledge may most certainly result a failure.
Many designers don’t know the “dosage” or the use YELLOW color, its cultural symbolism, which may very negatively affects the impression of the collection. A designer thinks “it’s like this”!
2 °) Knowledge and understanding of YELLOW may add great value to creative impression of the designer.
When a designer made a research about YELLOW, he may use this color strategically and add great value and increase the sales if used right and wisely.