“Yellow is capable of charming God.” Vincent van Gogh
Rubber ducky. Canary. Highlighter. Sunflower. Smiley face. Banana. All of these are identified with the color yellow. Yellow symbolizes happiness, optimism, energy, warmth, intellect, creativity and cowardice. Yellow’s dazzling luminescence has graced Chinese emperors, coated billions of pencils and cautioned us to s-l-o-w down.
In 1939, Columbia University professor Frank Cyr organized a conference at Teachers College on the university’s Manhattan campus. He gathered engineers and specialists from places like the Ford Motor Company and DuPont to establish national standards for school buses. The conference created 44 school bus standards, including height and width specifications — and the vehicles’ color. To figure out which hue was best, the group laid out a wide array of shades from light lemon-yellow to dark orange-red along a wall, eventually narrowing the field down to three shades of yellow.
Golden yellow was ultimately chosen by the specialists because its distinctive tint was the easiest color to see during the early morning and evening hours when buses operate. Originally called “National School Bus Chrome,” it was later renamed “National School Bus Glossy Yellow.” Black lettering and paint on the chassis completed the eye-catching look, with the hope that it would make people more careful when walking or driving near the buses.
Following the conference, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration registered the color as Federal Standard No. 595a, Color 13432. Within a few years of the conference, approximately 35 states adopted the bus standards. By 1973, all but one state had followed suit. The last hold-out, Minnesota, switched from “Minnesota Golden Orange” in 1974. North American-style yellow buses have been introduced in some parts of the United Kingdom and countries in Europe and South America.
Vincent wanted to be known as the painter of sunflowers.
Like other painters working at the time, Vincent van Gogh created flower still lifes. But he did things a little differently. After practicing with different flowers, he chose a specific variety as his focus: the sunflower. His fellow painters thought sunflowers were somewhat coarse and unrefined. But this is exactly what attracted Vincent. He gave sunflowers the lead role in 11 paintings and featured them in many others. Vincent sensed that his sunflower paintings were special. As did other people. After he died, friends brought sunflowers with them to his funeral. Even today, when people think about Vincent, they think about starry nights … and sunflowers.