The science of colour and why yellow is so powerful


I’m endlessly fascinated by the science of marketing. We like to treat it as an abstract art form, but it’s not. For every best practice rule of marketing there is a real thing behind it, and it helps to understand what these real things are.

For example, when we decide on colour palettes we tend to focus on the cultural associations of colours, but these cultural associations often stem from something far more scientific.

Let’s take the colours blue and red – certain shades of blue are often regarded as peaceful and serene, while red is associated with intensity, emotion, fire, anger and love, but this isn’t just by chance. Within the eye we have three different cones – blue, green and red. Blue are the least sensitive, which is why it tends to have a calming effect, while red is the most sensitive and therefore the most stimulating.

What’s really interesting I think are the colours yellow and pink. Pink isn’t actually a colour on the electromagnetic spectrum, but rather a hue. It’s achieved when all three of the cone cells are stimulated which of course gives us white, but when the red cone cells are additionally stimulated. You mix white with red and you have the hue pink.

Another interesting one is yellow. Yellow is what we see when both the red and green cells are activated, and of course with red being the most sensitive and green being the second most sensitive, the combination is incredibly powerful, almost irritatingly so. Hence why hi visibility safety clothing is often yellow, but also why it’s unlikely to be associated with sophistication as at its purest its almost overwhelming and garish.

Son’t get me wrong, the cultural associations we place on colours are immensely powerful, but it helpsto understand the science of why these cultural associations have emerged in the first place.

See you next time

Cookie Consent

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Read more in our Privacy Policy.