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What’s In a Color Name?

paintimagesWe’re all aware that color matters. The right color product can generate sales and the wrong color can lose them. But did you know that the right color name can be just as important? Whether it’s “Posh Pelican,” “Luv Hue” or “Beach Buoys,” an enticing color name has the power to excite, persuade, and ultimately close a sale.

Have you ever wondered who gets paid to do the fun job or naming all those textiles and paint colors? Yes, that would be me! After designing paint color systems and color palettes for the textile and building material industry for over 15 years, today I name colors as part of my job.

Before you say “dream job!” Keep in mind, the average paint color system contains 1,500 colors (give or take a few hundred), which begin their lives as nameless, color chip orphans.

With some of the strange names that the paint companies are coming up with these days, you might suspect that they’re just pulling names out of thin air or that alcohol is probably involved. Trust me! There’s a method to this madness.

In the years of designing products and naming them, I’ve discovered that in the art of color naming no two color namers do it the same way. There’s no “Color Naming for Dummies” book. As far as I know, there’s no class to learn how to do it and it doesn’t appear as a career choice on a high school guidance counselor’s assessment test.

Although we color namers each have different ways of approaching the task, we have the same goal in mind: to sell more product through color. The bottom line is that color names are marketing tools that help to sell products.

Here’s some insight into the reasoning and creative force behind how it’s done. The goal is to stimulate a personal connection between the color and intended end user by summoning a memory or evoking compelling emotions (even if they’re dark ones), so long as it results in a sale.

Call me strange, but I view each color that I’m proposing for a new product line as one of my little babies. I want it to be loved and in demand for its uniqueness, and bottom line, I want it to sell like crazy.

My ultimate goal in naming colors is to get a physical reaction out of the prospective customer. As customers go over the clever names on a color card, roll their eyes, raise an eyebrow, smirk, smile, chuckle, or laugh, they’re unknowingly seeing every color in the line. Every second they hold the color card increases the likelihood that they will find a color to purchase and not reach for your competitor’s product.

Guaranteed, if a customer says the color name out loud, it will be embedded in his or her mind for the rest of the day. But the ultimate “got ya!” moment is when the color name engages verbal communication.

As Enduratex’s color consultant, I create color palettes that develop into new product lines and design tools to help customers find and match colors. I also name the company’s colors and product lines.

Recently, while visiting Enduratex’s trade booth at the Hospitality Design (HD) Show, I was able to see firsthand how my work impacted their customers. At one point, I eaves-dropped on a conversation in which two female interior designers explained to their male sidekick what “Raccoon Eyes” were. They continued to walk around the booth, laughing while reading the names, probably totally unaware that in the process of responding to the catchy names, they were seeing all the colors on display. The man laughed so hard when he read “Not-Yo-Cheese” (named after my dog Nacho Libre) and continued to say “Not-Yo-Cheese” as he left the booth.

Most Difficult Colors to Name
Coming up with a new, interesting way to say “beige” can be challenging. Mainly because there are zillions of whites. For whites, it’s generally easier and more interesting to work with “feelings or lifestyles” themes. For instance, “Blank Canvas” is a rich yellow-ish brown, while “Tropical Bliss” is a fresh, bright blue-ish white.

Blue-greens can also be especially challenging to name, mainly because these colors don’t appear often in nature, other than in oceans. As with the whites, with blue-greens it’s generally more interesting to work with “feelings or lifestyles” themes, rather than the standard humdrum ocean names.

Easiest Colors to Name
Reds, yellows and greens are a snap! “Cha-Ching Cherry” and “Glitzerland Gold” are easy to envision. Greens too, since they’re so prevalent in nature and in food. For a fresh, in-your-face yellow-green, how about “You’re Outta Lime!?”


 

denise.jpgDenise Turner, ASID, CID, CMG is an award winning international colorist and speaker, color and design trend forecaster, Color Therapy specialist, marketing expert, author, and president of the Color Turners. She is an authority on cultural colors for the US and international market Denise regularly appears in the press, as a media spokesperson for ASID National and CMG Expert Speaker’s Bureau. She is an ASID professional member, former ASID chapter president, Certified Interior Designer, CMG Chair Holder CCIDC (California Council for Interior Design Certification) Board Member, ASID Designated Seat and UCLA graduate.   http://www.colorturners.com/ denise@colorturners.com

2 Comments on this Post

  1. Diana Kempton, IIDA, LEED-AP ID+C

    Thank you, Denise, for a VERY enlightening article on naming colors! I have copied this blog to supplement discussions on the topic in my Color and Design course at MCC this fall and will credit you as its author. After they learn about the major color systems, Pantone, etc., they are SO ready to hear how marketing color works in real life. They will LOVE the light-hearted origins like Not-Yo-Cheese!

    Reply
  2. Diana Kempton, IIDA, LEED-AP ID+C

    …and, of course, I’ll credit Designers Circle HQ as the source of the article’s publication!

    Reply

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