If you’re a regular IGN reader, when I write the words “Cyberpunk yellow”, you can almost certainly picture the neon shade I’m referring to. From its earliest days, CD Projekt Red used a particular yellow in everything from artwork to announcements. Eventually, it even became a warning sign for fans, after multiple delay announcements used the colour as a backdrop.
Speaking at Polish games conference Digital Dragons, Cyberpunk lead environment artist Michał Janiszewski brought that fact up in a lecture, using a section of his talk to answer the question, “Why Is Everything So Yellow?” In essence, the fact that so many people can recall that shade proves that the team did their job right.
Early in the talk Janiszewski brought up the glass Coca-Cola bottle as a key piece of industrial design history – you can recognise it by its shape, design, the font, and the colour. CD Projekt was aiming for something similar: “We were speaking about the Coca-Cola,” said Janiszewski. “The yellow colour is pretty much the same thing. It is conveying the information, it is simple to remember.”
However, it wasn’t simply a case of making a colour (and an accompanying design) that you’d remember – it was also an attempt to make Cyberpunk feel different from existing icons in its genre. Janiszewski made clear that the likes of Blade Runner and Judge Dredd were inspirations for Cyberpunk 2077, but the team worked from the beginning to feel distinct from them, as opposed to an impression of them.
‘Cyberpunk yellow’ became a part of that effort on the branding side: “Most people, when they are thinking about cyberpunk, it is like a red colour, a bit of blue,” said Janiszewski, “but we wanted to have something new, something fresh; that’s why we picked the yellow colour. It is new, it is like ‘California style’.”
Speaking to me later, fellow lead environment artist Kacper Niepokólczycki said there had been a “very long conversation” about creating that iconic brand identity for the game. While it was less prevalent inside the game itself, the team did seek to represent that yellow in Night City too:
“You can see [it in] clothes lining. It is there. And even districts – like for example, the City Center has this yellow colour everywhere, it’s the main colour from this district. Yeah, we definitely took it over wherever we could. But it was mostly first of all to figure out I think our identity as a colour – and then we took it over and injected it wherever we could.”
For the art team, perhaps the best marker of how successful the Cyberpunk yellow experiment had been was when other companies started using it themselves:
“In Poland, there were companies trying to use the colour,” Niepokólczycki says. “I remember there were food adverts here on bus stations and mobile phones that used the colour to grab your attention. They literally used the colour because they noticed how powerful it can be. Here in Poland, Cyberpunk at one point was crazy, posters everywhere – and people just [stole] the colour and used it for their own sake.”
It’s likely not the last we’ve seen of that particular shade. We’re expecting the game’s first expansion in 2023, and we know the developer has plans for the Cyberpunk franchise beyond this first game – Cyberpunk yellow is almost certain to return to help make you aware of those projects.