Yale Printing & Publishing Services

Yale Blue: What’s in a color?

CMYK 100, 75, 8, 40 or Pantone 289 is best known as Yale Blue. The color associated with Yale and her traditions was standardized by the University Printer, John Gambell in 2005 in the third university search for “true Yale Blue.” However, much as Harvard Crimson was almost Harvard Magenta, the tradition of Yale Blue was far from secure well into the early 20th century. The color was only officially adopted as the school’s color in 1894. For fifty years before adopting blue, Yale had been associated with the color green. The blue uniforms used by Yale crew in the 1850s inspired the change. Tracing the origins of Yale Blue has eluded many, especially those attempting to discern the color from the picture below known as “The Victorious Crew of 1859” held in Sterling Memorial Library’s Manuscripts and Archives. Much to the chagrin of would be color-sleuths the photograph is in black and white. Historians believe that the flag in the hand of the figure in the far right of the photograph likely holds the key to the origins of the first Yale Blue.Yale Blue is one of the two official colors of the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Mississippi and Southern Methodist University. It was also Duke University’s official color until 1961. Designers today are lucky enough to have the official color defined by the Office of the University Printer.