Wait, the Golden Gate Bridge Was Going to be What Color??

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous and recognizable landmarks in the world, symbolizing the beauty and innovation of San Francisco.

However, many people may not know that this iconic bridge was initially planned to be painted in a completely different color scheme: yellow and black.

This article will take a closer look at the history behind this decision and the factors that led to the bridge ultimately being painted in its now-iconic International Orange hue.

The Original Color Scheme: Yellow and Black

The US Navy initially proposed that the bridge be painted in yellow and black stripes, a color scheme that was mandated for navigational purposes.

Illustration of the Golden Gate Bridge with a yellow paint color scheme

At the time, bridges were commonly painted in these colors to make them more visible to passing ships in foggy conditions, ensuring their safety.

This idea was in line with the advice of the U.S. War Department, which had a say in the bridge’s design due to its strategic location.

Enter Irving Morrow: The Architect with a Vision

Irving Morrow, a consulting architect for the Golden Gate Bridge project, had a different vision for the bridge’s appearance.

Morrow believed that the yellow and black color scheme would be an eyesore and would not complement the bridge’s natural surroundings. Instead, he proposed using a warm, vibrant color that would blend well with the surrounding landscape and enhance the bridge’s aesthetic appeal.

Illustration of the Golden Gate Bridge with a yellow color scheme

The Birth of International Orange

During the bridge’s construction, the steel used for the project arrived coated in a red lead primer with a distinct orange hue. Morrow was immediately captivated by the way this color harmonized with the surrounding environment, contrasting beautifully with the blues of the sky and the water, and complementing the warm tones of the nearby hills.

Morrow knew he had found the perfect color for the bridge. The color existed already (and still does), and was called International Orange.

The Golden Gate bridge as it appears today

The Decision to Paint the Bridge International Orange

Morrow’s arguments in favor of International Orange were persuasive, and the bridge’s authorities ultimately agreed to use this color instead of the originally proposed yellow and black.

They recognized the importance of having a visually appealing bridge that would complement its surroundings, and they acknowledged that International Orange would achieve this goal while still meeting navigational safety requirements.


The Golden Gate Bridge’s iconic International Orange color is a testament to the vision and foresight of architect Irving Morrow, who recognized the importance of both aesthetics and functionality in bridge design. The bridge could have been painted yellow and black, as initially proposed, but Morrow’s determination to create a beautiful and harmonious structure ultimately led to the adoption of International Orange.

Today, the Golden Gate Bridge stands as a symbol of innovative design and engineering, and its unique color serves as a reminder of the importance of considering both practical and aesthetic concerns when creating lasting landmarks.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: