That was a nice surprise. We were bouncing around on the internet, as we’re prone to do most of the time, when we ran across this new article over at AIGA, “Red and Yellow Kills a Fellow” by an old friend of this writer’s, David Barringer. Hadn’t heard from him for a while, so it was nice to see a familiar name. And per his usual standards, the piece is great. It’s about why in the world companies would use such bright shades of red and yellow, shades that usually indicate exercising great caution in order to save your self from bodily harm, in their very logos. Do yourself a favor, read it, and then go back to Illustrator and ask yourself, “Does this company bake sale announcement really need to scare the bejesus out of people?” Here’s some:
Why do we use red and yellow to alert us to fast food and danger? Red/yellow says, “The food’s good here and pretty cheap, too,” and, out of the other side of its signifying mouth cries, “Watch out! Trouble ahead!”
The National Fire Protection Association uses color-coded warnings in which red indicates flammability, and yellow indicates reactivity. The U.S. Department of Transportation identifies the Pantone colors for its traffic signs, reserving red (187), yellow (116), and orange (152) for the most important cautionary signs. At the same time, hundreds of fast-food joints and cheap eateries rely on the red/yellow/orange combo, their exit-ramp signs blooming from Seattle to Shanghai. If you jumble these signs together, the Toxic Hazards with the Taco Palaces, you’d be unable to distinguish one species from another based on plumage. You’d need words and context.