Why yellow is better than white when you want to get attention

Admiral Storage stores paper.  Legal documents, agreements, invoices, receipts – all the records that Revenue and Customs insist that we keep.  And come to that, anything else that you want to store.

Most of the paper stored with us is white paper – a fact that I mentioned in passing on my last post (http://www.blog.archive-document-storage.co.uk/?p=76)

But some of the paper we have in storage for our clients is yellow, and I have been asking anyone who might listen to me, why yellow?  I know there used to be things called “Legal Pads” which were yellow, but still I ask the question, “Why yellow?”

According to one website I looked at (and remembering that 125% of all statistics on the internet are made up I am not sure this information is that reliable), the legal pad originated through the work of Thomas Holley, of the American Pad and Paper Company.  He had the idea of using scraps of paper left after cutting it into sheets, to make small notepads.

Because legal firms started to use these notepads (presumably because they were easily placed in client files) they became known as Legal Pads.

Previously, these left overs had gone to waste, so the raw material was available to him free – and he produced notepads in an assortment of sizes.  But the scraps could come in all colours, and so needed re-dying – and a colour needed to be chosen. Ultimately it was yellow.

The American Pad and Paper Company claims that yellow was chosen because is a more intellectually stimulating colour although I have no idea what evidence there is for that. Others say that yellow produces less glare and is less troublesome to some people than white.

But there is another reason why one should consider yellow – at least in certain circumstances. There is considerable research that shows that when a direct mail advert is sent out through the post on light yellow paper with black print, it gets a higher response rate than when printed on white paper.

The reason might be one of glare, as suggested above, but it is also worth noting that the combination of black and yellow is sometimes known as “nature’s danger signal”.  As an example of why just think of stinging insects such as wasps and bees which have evolved this colouring as a warning to predators.

But whatever the reason, black on yellow does attract attention – and people do not seem to shun away from the combination, but instead do read what is on the paper.

Of course we don’t mind what colour the paper is that we store – because we store paper of all types in our secure environment.  You even get your own locked storage area so that no one else can have access to your materials.

There are more details on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.

Why do we mostly print black on white?

The most commonly used paper is white – the most common colour for printing on white paper is black.

But why?

Black and white are of course the most strongly contrasted colours but there also exists a feeling (especially among designers) that colour should be used where ever possible.

But is colour printing or printing on coloured paper actually better?

The answer is (as with so many things when you look into them in detail) “up to a point”. The key factor with the way in which we perceive printed material with colour on it as opposed to the classic black on white is that it all depends on what else is going on at the same time.

The definitive academic study on this is the article by Joan Meyers-Levy and Laura A Peracchio (from the universities of Chicago and Wisconsin respectively) called “Understanding the effects of colour”, which makes the situation very clear. They say…

When readers of a piece have little motivation to read it, their willingness to keep reading will be affected by such things as the colour and the physical attractiveness of the presentation. So initially the unmotivated reader becomes more positive about the piece, and there is a more positive response from two or four colours than from single colour.

This is of course what designers and printers who love colour instinctively feel – the colour makes the advert more attractive. And indeed, if the reader is unmotivated, then feels the piece of paper is attractive because of colour, the colour is enhancing the response rates.

But unfortunately this “unmotivated state” is very rare for most of us. Hardly ever do we sit around just waiting for something to happen. We are engaged in other things – our brain power is being used up elsewhere.

So, if we are looking at an advert for example, at the moment we are looking to substantiate the claims of the advert so that we can move to a purchase, the colour uses up so much of the resources in the brain we are willing to give to the processing of this issue, that we feel too much is asked of us, and we simply stop and turn away.

In simple terms, if distractions are low and the reader feels a real need and desire to look at the printed page, colour is a great boon – providing that we are willing to give the brain the resources needed to decode the page, and provided also we are not going to want to consider in any depth the claims made by the advert.

The travel brochure is a perfect example – I want to go on holiday, I have gone out and got a brochure from the travel agent, and I sit down at home without distraction, totally focussed on finding the holiday of my dreams, and fairly sure that this is the country I want to go to. Colour then helps – as long as all this holds to the good.

But if I am of a disbelieving mind, if I have been on holidays before where the promise of the brochure is not substantiated, then the colour pictures can be a distraction, and I might turn to the Lonely Planet for a pure text discussion of the resort – without the unwanted distractions.

So when printing, remember, colour is not always good. On the other hand when storing paper, colour is irrelevant. It is all storage.

And that is what we do. We store paper. In the Midlands.

There are more details on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.