Giving Colors More Colorful Names
Tom Osborne, Former VP, Design
Now that we have a whole rainbow it makes referencing difficult beyond hex values. In other words, the colors need an equivalent for casual conversation — something with soul.
I’ve been playing around with a few different methods. While I haven't found a perfect solution, there are some options:
- Use a tool - There are tools available like Name That Color and Color Name & Hue (h/t @chuckborowicz) that provide approximate names based on hex values. These are great; but, the names can be too esoteric for everyday use.
- Compare to a list - Compare colors to lists like Named Web Colors, Crayola, or Ingrid's Color Thesaurus and look for similarity.
- Make it up - Just wing it. There are no rules. Name the colors however you like. Try an image search based on a term to see what colors emerge. Ask a friend for a second opinion. Everyone has an opinion about colors.
- All of the above - Go crazy. Do all the things.
I usually go with "All of the Above." I use the tools for discovery and ideas — sometimes I reference lists — then I pick the best fit, or add my own. Yes, it can be time-consuming. No, it does not have any real meaning as far as the HTML and CSS are concerned. Yes, there are official named web colors (but, they’re limited and don’t always fit). No, there’s no real system to the process — but I think it still works.
For added bonus, try to choose your color names according to a theme. Ideas include nature, gemstones, jellybean flavors, celebrities, Disney characters, and so on. Two amazing examples of sticking to a theme are the Colour of Song and Colour of Popular Music posters by Dorothy.
For this, I chose color names that are also names of people. Fun fact: Ten of these names (Skye, Kelly, April, Coral, Rowan, Ruby, Asher, Heather, Pearl, and Lilia) are names (or family names) of Viget staff past and present.
Here’s what the Viget color names look like:
Naming colors is even more important when it comes to grays since there is no hue differentiation:
Now that our expanded colors have more colorful names, they have more character and individuality. They’re alive, they have soul, and I can easily reference each color’s name with its own accompanying hex value. Both humans and machines win. Let’s dance!