You’ve certainly noticed before that a number of pop culture characters from movies and television are yellow.
As well as those pictured above – The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants, Pikachu and the Minions – there’s Tweety Bird, Winnie the Pooh, Pluto, Mr Peanutbutter, Jake the Dog, Joy from Inside Out, and many others.
In the past, Matt Groening has been quoted as saying that he made his famous characters of The Simpsons yellow so that they would be instantly recognisable when the viewer was flicking through channels.
Now, YouTube’s Channel Frederator has taken an in-depth anlysis of the phenomenon and explains the ‘method to the madness.’
As it turns out, the reasons for the colour design is inspired by three things: colour theory, psychology, and visibility.
Colour theory – Channel Frederator explains how for TV the colour wheel works with red, green and blue as its primary colours. In RGB terms, the complementary colour for yellow is blue – meaning these colours make each other stand out – and since backgrounds are commonly blue skies or seas, yellow is an eye-catching choice for character design.
Colour psychology – This one is probably more obvious and it has to do with associations we have with colours (red with anger/passion, blue with sadness, etc.). Yellow in animation commonly expresses energy, playfulness, warmth and happiness.
Colour visibility – Yellow is the most visible colour in the entire visual spectrum. Warning signs, barriers and taxis are commonly yellow to attract attention – it’s also the colour of pollen. Interestingly, yellow is also ‘colourblind-proof’, so it always stands out.
So there you have it.
You can watch the explanation in full here: