Why are tennis balls fluorescent yellow? Why is bubble gum pink? Why are pencils yellow? The video below explores the origins of each of these “standard” colors for different objects, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast between those for which the color was chosen for a functional design rationale (tennis balls, traffic lights, the white coats doctors wear) versus those whose colors represent branding (pencils) or those with a color that stems largely from what materials folks had on hand at the time (barns). It’s also interesting to note the role that the book Little Women may have played in reversing the perception that pink is a boy’s color and blue a girl’s color.

Now, a question I’ve often wondered about: Why is the open access logo orange?

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


1 Thought on "Design Matters (or does it?): Why are Certain Things Certain Colors?"

And that is a question the early employees of PLOS can answer as that logo was originally designed by PLOS, and over time was adopted by others.

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