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Color Spotlight: Orange, The Color Of High Visibility

orange construction sign

Back in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Portuguese merchants exploring Asia spied a citrus tree they thought was cool, so they brought it home with them. They didn’t have a word for it, so they called it what the locals did: naranga, or naranj.

Bright, noticeable and tasty, the fruit quickly became popular. So did the word, which soon began showing up in European languages as orange.

Today, orange is the color of safety and visibility – as well as amusement and entertainment. If you have a product that needs to stand out, or a corporate identity that includes a touch of whimsy, orange is your hue.

If You Build It

Orange is everywhere on a construction site, and for good reason: it’s hard to miss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even requires that certain construction equipment be painted safety orange (hex code FF7900).

Two of the most familiar safety orange items are the traffic cones and construction barrels (or drums) that channel traffic through a jobsite or warn motorists on the roads.

The traffic cone was patented in 1943 by Charles Scanlon, who got the idea for a brightly colored, pyramid-shaped cautionary device while working in the street painting department for the city of Los Angeles. The first real-life use was in Britain in 1958 when the M6 motorway opened. The cones replaced red lantern paraffin burners. The first plastic cones may have been made as early as 1961. Contemporary cones are made of thermoplastic – frequently recycled PVC from plastic bottles – or rubber.

The orange and white drums used for traffic control first emerged in the late 1970s. Made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), they quickly replaced traffic cones because, despite the cones’ bright orange color, they were small, often ignored and frequently run over.

Dangerous machinery, stanchions, safety fencing, detour signs, high-visibility clothing for workers and some construction trucks also are required to be orange.

Because it’s the color most easily seen in dim light, against water or a bright blue sky, orange also is the preferred shade for life rafts, life jackets, buoys, astronaut suits and prison outfits, as well as clothing and gear for hunters and cyclists.

The Golden Gate Bridge is actually painted orange, which makes it more visible in San Francisco’s ubiquitous fog. Even aircraft flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders – commonly referred to as the “black box” – are orange.

Other Careers For Orange

Once orange clocks out from the construction site, it’s able to show off the less-serious aspects of its personality.

A mix of red and yellow, orange exhibits qualities of both parents, though in a toned-down fashion. It has the drama and passion of red, though it’s less intense, more playful and more youthful. Like yellow, it’s a joyful hue that reminds people of sunshine and the tropics.

Looking at orange increases oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates mental acuity – which makes it an ideal color for the office, especially if you want to encourage innovation, energy, creativity and enthusiasm among your employees. Orange is also thought to stimulate the appetite, however, so you might not want to continue the color scheme into the break room.

But taking orange out to the playing field is a popular idea. Its connection with physical confidence, adventure and risk-taking makes it a perfect color for athletes, including the Syracuse Orange, as the university calls its sports teams. Uniforms and logos are, of course, the appropriate color, as is the school mascot, Otto the Orange.

Lots of other college and pro teams wear orange too, usually in combination with a contrasting color, including the Miami Dolphins (with aqua), Cincinnati Bengals (with black), Denver Broncos (with navy blue and white), Chicago Bears (with dark navy), University of Texas at Austin (burnt orange and white) and the University of Florida (with blue).

In a corporate logo, orange can be used to indicate playfulness or stimulate emotions and appetites. A big orange “splat” was part of a successful rebranding at Nickelodeon in 1984 that helped take the kid-centric network from a money loser to the dominant force in children’s programming for more than 25 years.

Other companies that effectively use orange to communicate corporate values include Home Depot (value) and Amazon (black with an orange smile that indicates pride and happiness).

Orange is also frequently used for food branding – for instance, Orange Crush and Fanta soft drinks as well as many commercially available orange juices.

Are You Getting Hungry?

Speaking of food, orange is a very common color of fruits, veggies, spices, seasonal foods and other yummies. Think of something tasty – it’s probably orange: oranges, of course, but also apricots, carrots, cheddar cheese, foods made with saffron, paprika or curry, and certain snack foods. Natural or synthetic dyes can make unpleasant things – such as children’s medicine – palatable, or increase the visual appeal of foods we like, such as egg yolks.

And what would autumn in North America be without pumpkins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice latte or candy corn?

All Eyes Are On You

When your product has to be noticed, orange is a sure bet. Whether you need coral or carrot, pumpkin or persimmon, the experts at Plastics Color’s Color Solutions Center can match your existing color or fashion a shade just for you.

To learn more about its industry-leading color concentrates for plastics and color matching that can help you achieve your product goals, please fill out the form located at the bottom of this page.

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