Move over, millennial pink. “Gen Z yellow” is the new kid on the block.
Jury’s out on the exact shade of Gen Z yellow, often used as a catch-all term for a variety of shades including marigold, banana, gold, buttercream, daffodil, lemon meringue, mustard, bumblebee, mango and sunshine. Like millennial pink, this new generational color trend spans the spectrum and is hard to pin down.
The dominance of a single color in mainstream culture, though, reflects more than just our collective taste. It drives business and fuels the economy. “The desire to capture the spirit of youth and to understand younger generations’ motivation is driven by both curiosity and commerciality,” explains trends consultant Louise Stuart Trainor.
Oscar Wilde’s view that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” applies wonderfully to our use of color in the 21st century. Sure, millennial pink managed to become a symbol of gender neutrality and herald the genderless movement, but Glossier was the real reason the color shot to fame in the first place. Similarly, while Gen Z yellow may carry cultural connotations of boldness and positivity, it lives beyond our Instagram feeds. Brands are busily infusing yellow into their packaging design, retails shelves, clothing lines and window displays.
Here we document the ways in which a few of today’s brands use Gen Z yellow:
That yellow makes you hungry is an open secret in fast-food marketing and branding. The Ketchup and Mustard theory says that red and yellow, when used in combination, are designed to make you stop and eat. While red induces feelings of warmth, comfort and hunger, yellow catches your attention and makes you excited.
The notice-me-yellow coating of these products by Asarai, Sephora, Glossier and Brandless perhaps come closest to Gen Z yellow’s mainstream narrative: reclaiming what would previously have been considered tacky or desperate as a clarion call for inclusiveness and label-rejection. It also helps Korean beauty brands like NeoGen Lab and Dr. Jart+ – all the rage right now – stand out on a shelf otherwise drowning in American cosmetics.
Gen Z yellow is anything but mellow. Our only reservation: the name. The color sounds like a tired, unimaginative sequel to the pink that has ruled hearts and minds for longer than any other color in the history of pop-culture obsessions. (Remember Lauren Schwartzberg’s “Why Millennial Pink Refuses to Go Away”?)
Those who find themselves with millennial pink fatigue will readily embrace this visual vitamin D. As Gen Z yellow sets the tone for 2018, the rest of us wait here in the shadows, hoping for Gen X jade or Baby Boomer blue to catch on.
Photography by Johan Vipper and Steve Baust