Get to Know a Color! Yellow Makes Babies Cry

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Yellow is generally associated with happiness, but consider this disturbing scientifically proven fact: Yellow rooms make babies cry. So, designers, if you want to create compositions that make babies cry, use a lot of yellow. And expecting parents, if you’re debating whether to find out the gender of your baby before it’s born, definitely do it or you’re going to end up with a bunch of yellow gifts and an unhappy baby.

With that, welcome to the third installment of Get to Know a Color! We’ve touched on red and blue already, so we’ll wrap up the primary colors, also known as the Fisher-Price triad, with yellow.

Yellow is the brightest of the pure hues, which means that it was reading entire chapter books before it turned four and can do a dinosaur-shaped floor puzzle with no help from Mommy and Daddy. (Sorry, can you tell it’s the holiday season and I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family recently?) It actually means that it’s the first color you’ll see against a black background and has very little contrast against a white background.

Most everything you read about the color yellow will begin with its positive associations—it’s the color of optimism, sunshine, and joy. Yellow, a warm color, is found on ribbons that represent the hope of people waiting for their loved ones to return safely from war. It’s said that it encourages communication and stimulates the mind.

But this little tidbit from the website Color Matters is an important warning for designers who want to use a lot of yellow:

Yellow, pure bright lemon yellow, is the most fatiguing color. Why? The answer comes from the physics of light and optics. More light is reflected by bright colors, resulting in excessive stimulation of the eyes. Therefore, yellow is an eye irritant.

Photo by Alan O'Neill

This article goes on to say that in large quantities, cheerful, sunshiny yellow makes people irritable and argumentative. This may explain the disposition of my eighth-grade bus driver and every New York City cab driver.

The cultural associations with yellow, as with any color, are contradictory. While yellow is seen as overwhelmingly cheerful, if you ask someone, “What are ya, yella?” you’re calling them a coward (or you are worried about jaundice). A yellow journalist is one of low moral standards.

Globally, yellow is associated with the Ming and Qing dynasties in China, while in India it’s the color of the farmer caste, according to an article on the website Sensational Color. Yellow has specific associations in Greek (sadness), French (jealousy), Japanese (courage), Aztec (food, specifically corn), and Christian (greed) cultures.

Photo by Peter Firminger

Yellow is used to get attention and signify warning on traffic signs, as with this extra-adorable wombat crossing sign from Australia. In sports, it’s used on warning flags in auto-racing and to indicate penalties in American football.

And finally, if you’re a supervillain and need to thwart the Green Lantern’s fancy super ring, all you have to do is paint your death ray yellow and you’ll be fine, because as everyone knows, the Green Lantern does not like yellow, and his ring is powerless against it.

To sum up, pure yellow is like Reese Witherspoon: uplifting and cheerful in small doses, but too much of it at once is hard to take. And it makes babies cry.

11 thoughts on “Get to Know a Color! Yellow Makes Babies Cry

  1. What about the yellow light in the traffic signal?
    Or the Beatle’s classic “Yellow Submarine?”
    Or Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow?”
    Or Yellowstone National Park?
    And what was that yellow streak I saw in the snow?
    And how come no mention of baseball or Shea’s wardrobe?
    How am I supposed to comment about the No-Good Stinkin’ Yankees or sweater vests?
    Caputo, what’s up with you these days?
    Did shaving your noggin mess up your brain?

  2. Hey, experienceology re-Facebooked (oh, the verbs we must use now) this post! Must be good.

    NOW you tell me. Half the kids in my son’s French class think my name is Yellow. Is that why they cry?

  3. Regardless of whether yellow might be irritating to some, it will always be my favorite color. If I am purchasing a product, and it comes in yellow, you can bet that’s what color I am getting.
    So, my house contains LOTS of yellow items. Which could explain why I don’t have children. I would definitely have to redecorate.

  4. There is another problem with yellow text on a dark background sobe particularly interpretive signage outside. If the text is very extensive, especially if it is placed in multiple columns, vibrant with sunlight and adds significantly to the reading. However, when only used for the holder of the poster highlights the text and fixed our attention much more than white.

  5. How about writing an article with information rather than a lame ass joke every five words. I came here for educational purposes, not to hear about your eighth grade bus driver or how a color can solve a fucking dinosaur puzzle. Next time you try to write something factual, DO IT.

  6. I saw lots o’ facts in there, KatelynnJoleen. More importantly, why were you searching for facts on the color yellow? I just come here for a good laugh.

  7. You know KatelynnJoleen, many (and by many I mean about 3) of us come to Interpretation by Design for entertainment and companionship, and sometimes (though not exclusively) for educational purposes.

    But just to show you we are a helpful bunch who wholeheartedly stand behind the philosophy of education, I would happily direct you to Wikipedia (whose reputation for accuracy is beyond reproach and always has groundbreaking and completely trustworthy information to share). Taken from a wiki search on yellow: Yellow (/ˈjɛloʊ/) is the color evoked by light that stimulates both the L and M (long and medium wavelength) cone cells of the retina about equally, with no significant stimulation of the S (short-wavelength) cone cells.[2] Light with a wavelength of 570–590 nm is yellow, as is light with a suitable mixture of red and green. Yellow’s traditional RYB complementary color is purple, violet, or indigo, while its colorimetrically defined complementary color in both RGB and CMYK color spaces is blue.”

    Though the Wiki article failed to offer helpful, real life advice about what color to paint your nursery and family room, I suppose there is some good stuff in there for you. I, along with my 3 friends, prefer Paul’s take any day.

  8. Okay, first off, I’m pretty sure we could come up with WELL over 3 people to back up our view point. If you’re going to post something on the internet, for entertainment or not, it should have some knowledge behind it and not make it sound like a two-year old wrote it. Second off, any knowledgeable human being knows that wikipedia is the LEAST resourceful website known to man. My five year old sister can go on it and write in information that is false. Maybe you should go back to elementary school and learn something for once. You should be ashamed of how stupid you truly are.

  9. KatelynnJoleen, seriously, settle down. If you don’t don’t like what you read here, then we’ll be happy to offer you a full refund. Then you can use that money to invest in a web browser that goes to other sites so that you don’t have to read our stuff anymore.

  10. Maybe KatelynnJoleen needs to take her attitude and go play in someone else’s sandbox. Paul and Shea, while I appreciate that you let people post and reply, and to my knowledge, have never deleted folks comments (well maybe that one of mine with that picture), when people drop f-bombs, they should just be banned and blocked. Then the rest of us do not have to worry about children like KatelynnJoleen.

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