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YELLOW & the psychology of colour is an illustrative guide which reflects upon the history and reasoning behind colour theory and colour psychology. Examining the meaning and messages that the colour communicates and symbolises throughout various global cultures, along with information and trivia about the colour itself, this book provides insightful, illustrative designs to visually engage and educate.


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COLOUR PSYCHOLOGY Colour psychology is the study and reasoning of the associations of colour in relation to human behaviour and the changes it can create. Although comparatively new in terms of the numerous fields of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytical research, evidence has shown of the huge impact and variation that colour psychology can create in a wide range of different situations and habitats- from interior architecture, design and decoration to retail and consumer psychology.

Throughout the world, it is common to find different countries and cultures having varying symbolism, meanings and messages held with specific colours. This is often determined by factors such as heritage, history and culture; whether it be symbolic of love, caution, religion, royalty, wealth and so on.



THE STUDY OF COLOUR The study of colour is an exact science. Colours are, of course, visual, and emit different wavelengths of light, which consequently create the millions of variations of colours in the world dependent upon this. The light created from the wavelengths stimulate different areas of the brain, largely through the retina (the light sensitive lining on the inner surface of the eye) and the skin. A long wavelength in a bright, yellow room (upon which a white light is hit) stimulates emotional and irrational parts of the brain,

as opposed to blue, with a short wavelength, stimulating the cooling, calming, and often colder logical or mathematical parts of the brain. Due to the huge range of diversity in terms of personality types, ways of visualisation, and so on, blue and yellow (the two extremes in terms of wavelengths) usually have the greatest variation in regards to colour symbolism, with very positive and very negative symbolisms that they are both commonly associated with.

CARL JUNG & COLOUR Psychoanalyst Carl Jung is believed to be the prominent pioneer of colour psychology, as he was the first to propose the interest and medium of colour psychology and symbolism as a field in it’s own right when applied in his own professional psychotherapy practice. Extensively researched, Jung studied various topics such as the history of applied colour, colour within art, such as in the works of Pablo Picasso, and with mandalas (the symbolic expression of searching for unity and peace.

Throughout his studies, Jung attempted to create a coded language based around colour theory and the symbolic expression within colour, even turning to alchemy, the medieval belief of transforming base matter metals into gold, as a source of inspiration and understanding of it’s psychological resonance. Although the psychology of colour is not fully established as a practice, it is commonly and actively used and referenced in psychiatric practice, and particularly within design mediums.



MEANINGS OF YELLOW Within colour psychology, varying tints and shades can create a huge impact and variation within the specific meanings and symbolism. Although the meanings and symbolic messages that the colour yellow holds varies throughout different cultures, many traditional opinions and meanings of the colour and still prominently held. Due to the warm tones of yellow, it can be perceived as both a negative and a positive colour, although the latter is the most frequent association throughout the world, global cultures and religions.

The most common association with yellow is summer, and the sun, as well as happiness, laughter and general wellbeing. In colour psychology, when yellow is chosen as a favourite colour, this ordinarily denotes optimism, energy and creativity. It has been scientifically proven that the colour yellow, when viewed, prompts a release of seratonin (the “feel good� chemical) to the brain which encourages the joy and uplifting nature of which the colour is commonly related.




AMERICA (USA) The United States of America has one of the most diverse ranges of meanings and symbolisms connected with yellow. Like many Western countries, this is due to the wonderfully diverse culture and population of the country, along with other variable factors such as religion holding specific colour symbolism.

In the USA, yellow is symbolic for: - Peace - Happiness/Joy - Fun - Energy


NATIVE AMERICA In Native America, and within Native American tribes, yellow holds a wide variety of symbolic messages and meanings. Most commonly, yellow is viewed as a very positive, strong colour which is representative of God and religion(s) as well as unconditional love- the love and bond of birth/ biological families

as well as tribal family. In Native American tribes, yellow is symbolic for: - Love - God/Religion - Caution

14 CHINA China is perhaps the most significant country in terms of it’s symbolism and honouring of the colour yellow. The country designates the colour yellow specifically for royalty and is worn by the emperor of the dynasty alone. Also, one of the largest religions practiced in China, Buddhism, uses the saffron

yellow shade for the Monk’s robes as the colour represents peace, relaxation and “being free from worldly cares”. In China, yellow is symbolic for: - Loyalty - Happiness/Joy - Nobility/Royalty

15 EGYPT The colour yellow in Egypt is symbolic for morning and death due to it’s roots within it’s mythological and cultural beliefs. The sun and gold, both of yellow colour, were believed to be eternal and indestructible, the skin and bones of the Gods and pharaohs too believed to be made from pure gold.

This was visually emulated in the statues of the Gods and rulers which were made of, or plated with gold as a form of religious ode. In Egypt, yellow is symbolic for: - Death/Mourning

16 ETHIOPIA Along with many African countries, most notably so Egypt, Ethiopia most commonly associates the colour yellow with death and mourning, though most commonly regarded in a celebratory remembrance and honouring of the departed’s life. The colour yellow is also prominently used on the countries flag, which is

believed to have originated from the showcasing and pride of the wealth of Africa (represented in the “golden” yellow), and, consequently, is regarded as symbolic, though perhaps not quite as frequently. In Ethiopia, yellow is symbolic for: - Death/Mourning

17 INDIA Traditionally within India yellow was the colour most commonly associated with farmers and those associated with agricultural business. In modern day, this has been adopted by larger scale businesses to represent marketing and sales, and is now representative of general business dealings, merchants,

commerce, and large-scale business relationships. In India, yellow is symbolic for: - Commerce

18 ITALY Perhaps one of the most simply understood and clearly visual symbolisms and interpretations of the colour yellow comes from Italy. Italians most commonly associate the colour yellow with summer and the sun, which is appropriate to the Mediterranean climate, culture and lifestyle which is celebrated in the Western,

European country. In Italy, yellow is symbolic for: - Summer

19 JAPAN In Japan, like many Eastern cultures, yellow is a celebrated, sacred colour with a many meanings. Like China, Japan primarily associates yellow with religion due to Buddhism, although the denotation of happiness, joy, and also illness, is presumed to have been adopted from Western world. Unlike many

Western cultures, Japan also associates yellow with courage, from the time of the War of Dynasty in 1357, when each warrior wore a yellow chrysanthemum as a pledge of courage/honour. In Japan, yellow is symbolic for: - God/Religion - Nobility/Royalty - Happiness/Joy - Illness

20 MEXICO The colour and species of flowers can often hold specific meanings and symbolism for various countries, religions, and cultures, perhaps most prominently so in Mexico. On November 2, the ‘Day of the Dead’ religious ceremony commences, in which families honour the lives of departed family members with vivid imagery of

death such as decorated skulls and the saffron yellow marigold flower which, in Mexican culture, is also symbolic of death. In Mexico, yellow is symbolic for: - Death/Mourning

SAUDI ARABIA Once again, in direct contrast to the cowardice or deceit that yellow often portrays in Western cultures, the Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia has quite the opposite view and symbolic connotations of the colour. In contrast, yellow is most commonly being associated with personal power and strength, reliability, and nobility.


In Saudi Arabia, yellow is symbolic for: - Strength - Nobility/Royalty

22 UKRAINE Ukraine, situated in Eastern Europe, a direct centralised point of Eastern and Western cultures, symbolises yellow in a very similar, harmonious way. Ukraine’s most commonly associated meaning with the colour yellow is hospitality and benevolence, to be charitable and thoughtful. This is perhaps reflected in the countries

flag colours, an equal division of both yellow and blue. In Ukraine, yellow is symbolic for: - Hospitality


UNITED KINGDOM In the United Kingdom, as with the United States of America, as previously mentioned, there are many different meanings and symbolic references to the colour yellow. The representation of yellow most frequently used is within hazard signs such as ‘High Voltage’ and ‘Danger of Death’ near electricity stations

or construction sites, whereupon the bright, vivid yellow colour is used to great advantage to be eye-catching, and ensure that the signage is seen and understood. In the United Kingdom, yellow is symbolic for: - Caution


YELLOW FACTS AND TRIVIA ANCIENT MAYANS Ancient Mayans associated the colour yellow with the direction of South.

in 1930, when the first series of crime novels published were done so with yellow covers. THE COLOUR OF LIBERTY

BLACK AND YELLOW The word for ‘yellow’ in Oromo (the primary language spoken in Ethiopia) ‘boora’, also means ‘black’.

Throughout global political parties, yellow is the colour most commonly associated with Liberal/ Libertarian parties.



The word ‘yellow’ in Italian, ‘giallo’, refers to crime stories, both fictional and nonfictional. This tradition was believed to have begun

Yellow often has links to illness due to the jaundicethe yellowing of the skin which is often caused by liver-related illnesses.

YELLOW PENCILS Since the 1890’s, pencils have commonly been painted yellow. This is due to the fact that during this century, the world’s best graphite was considered to be Chinese graphite, and American pencil retailers wanted to communicate the quality of their products to their consumers. The colour yellow was chosen as in China, the colour yellow is associated with royalty, respect and honour. The American retails felt this was appropriate to showcase the “regal” association and

25 aforementioned quality of their products. Still today,many years later, seventy five percent of the pencils bought and sold within the United States of America are still coloured yellow.

27 BEES Undoubtedly, the world’s most famously yellow living creature is the bee, and is perhaps the most interesting in terms of symbolism and cultural meaning with strong connections to both Aegan and Mayan cultures. The bee was believed to be a sacred insect, bridging the living world with the deceased, as well as (in Mayan cultures) being believed to be Gods themselves, the Bee God, Muzen-Cab (which was depicted heavily through bee motifs), as the luxury yellow-coloured honey product was considered to be a food of the Gods

Also, within Ancient Egypt, honey bees signified immortality and resurrection, once again linked to the golden yellow colour of the Gods and the gold they used to honour their leaders in sculptural tombs and masks for the mummified bodies. In modern day, the bee is most commonly associated with diligence, hard work, and of course, summer, when bees actively pollinate. The phrase “busy as a bee” is commonly used to describe someone who works tirelessly, without scheduled breaks or holiday.


THE YELLOW JERSEY Since the very first Tour de France cycling race in 1903, the contest has been divided into “stages”. Since 1919, the cycling contest leader of each of the stages has been awarded with the yellow jersey (“Maillot jaune, in French). The winner of each stage is considered to be the “wearer” of the yellow jersey, and only after the final stage is the wearer considered to be the winner of the jerseyand, of course, of the entire Tour de France race. There has been famous confusion as to the origins of the yellow jersey- two main arguments considered to

have a degree of truth. The first, because it reflected the yellow newsprint used in the organising sponsors newspaper, ‘L’Auto’, and the second, somewhat less official, because yellow was considered to be an unpopular colour for fabrics at the time, and yellow was the only colour available to be manufactured at late notice. American cyclist Lance Armstrong holds the title for most yellow jerseys won (seven) in The Tour, and France hold the nations title with thirty six wins.

AMERICA (USA) The United United States States The of America America has has of one of the most diverse ranges of meanings and symbolisms connected with yellow. Like many Western countries, this is due to the wonderfully diverse culture and population of the country, along with other variable factors such as religion holding specific colour symbolism.

In the the USA, USA, yellow yellow In is symbolic symbolic for: for: is Peace -- Peace Happiness/Joy -- Happiness/Joy Fun -- Fun Energy -- Energy

Yellow & the psychology of colour book.  
Yellow & the psychology of colour book.  

Yellow & the psychology of colour book. For a University Image brief. OUGD205.