Yellow: The World's Most Underappreciated Color
As young children in art class, we all learn of the three primary colors red, blue and yellow. Over time, it is clear to see that media and the world at large has favored the use of the red and blue leaving yellow by the wayside. This has culminated in multiple worldwide surveys ranking blue as the world’s most popular color with red following close behind and yellow being ranked fairly low and often being ranked highly as the least favorite color of a large amount of people.
Color psychology plays a large role in altering the use of colors in media. Red is commonly used as a color to promote physical aggression and excitement while blue is used as a color to promote calmness and mental clarity, leading to them naturally being used to oppose each other. On the other hand, yellow is associated with friendliness, creativity and optimism which sadly aren’t concepts explored as much in popular culture.
Comics had a large impact on how yellow has been incorporated into stories for decades. Due to comics from the early 40s to mid 70s using obnoxious amounts of yellow for their backgrounds and titles, they limited their use of implementing yellow into the characters they were creating, instead opting to implement red and/or blue. As time advanced, comics matured past their obsession with yellow backgrounds and placed the characters in more diverse scenarios. Numerous characters created from that time now have bright red and blue costumes that make them distinct from other characters while multiple characters clad in yellow slowly had their portions of yellow depleted over time through redesigns. This can even be seen nowadays with redesigns like the MCU version of the Iron Spider suit heavily reducing the use of yellow and Iron Man largely reducing the yellow in his multiple suits, utilizing red as his primary color.
The idea of implementing less yellow quickly spread to other media. One of the best examples of this color disparity is the Star Wars franchise. The blue lightsabers are commonly used by intelligent, benevolent Jedi masters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and the red lightsabers are the calling card of the numerous aggressive, authoritarian Sith lords like the iconic Darth Vader. However, the less common yellow lightsabers are used exclusively by faceless, emotionless Jedi temple guards. Star Wars and numerous movies that followed it perpetuated the use of red and blue as colors emblematic of good and evil, leaving yellow without anything notable to represent.
Due to yellow being the most visible color, its use is often limited to prevent overexposure. This principle can be seen notably in the game design surrounding two of the most iconic video game characters: Pac-Man and Mario. Pac-Man’s design consists of black eyes and yellow circle. However, the player’s attention isn’t primarily on Pac-Man, it’s on the four ghosts chasing him and the pellets he needs to collect. Pac-Man’s clever use of yellow allows for players to keep track of Pac-Man while also diverting enough focus to see what actions need to be taken next. While Mario’s costume uses large amounts of red and blue, his iconic coins are a distinct shade of yellow. The yellow coins lead players across the levels and disappear when touched, letting yellow never overtake the screen.
Yellow has always been the underdog of the primary color trio. From its inception, it was always doomed to be less popular than the other two. It isn’t associated with common themes used in media which leaves little effect on people due to media having a large influence of people’s personalities. The few good instances of its use are often supplemented by the use of red and blue which are ultimately more popular and leave a larger impact on people. Despite my love for it, yellow never really stood a chance.