At Dulux, we’re often asked how we name our colours and come up with the likes of Polished Pebble and Chic Shadow. As you might expect, it’s a lot of fun – but much harder than it looks. Luckily, we’ve got it down to a fine art.
Naming our colours happens at the very end of our expert colour ranging process, which is in itself both an art and a science. We take care with every single colour that we choose. As we build or update a collection (like our Heritage range, for example), our team of experts will trawl through data to find the gaps and pick the exact colours we think are right.
Often, this will lead to us having a number of additional colours to give new names to. It’s then down to people, like our Colour Brand Manager, Emily Simpson, to give these tints their titles.
Art + Science = Gold
“We call it The Alchemy Process,” says Emily, “and the alchemy word relates to how we range, rather than how we name. The methodology behind it is Art + Science = Gold, where the Gold is a commercial, competitive, on-trend and original range.
“The Art part is looking at colour and design trends, like our Colour Futures forecast – where the team at our Global Aesthetics Centre in Holland create colour palettes for the next year.
We do our own research as well, specifically focused on what’s going on in the UK. We’ll go to trade shows and design fairs to look at product and material launches and see what designers and retailers are putting in the market.
“The Science is the numbers part. It’s the evaluation of our sales, where we’ll look at which colours are going up and down and identify areas for growth and opportunity. We’ll also look at the landscape in general, to see if that can tell us anything about what our customers are interested in.”
The creative sessions
Once the range of colours is agreed and new colours are identified, Emily will gather her team round the table for a creative brainstorm.
“I always try to make sure I have a mix of people,” says Emily, “because you don’t always know where the creative minds are hiding. I’ll use people who work with colour every day, but I also try to make sure there are a couple of wild-cards in the room. There may be some people working in finance or HR, for example, who are really passionate about colour and have really creative ideas.”
“The colour is put in front of them and they’re tasked with coming up with as many ideas as possible. The more the merrier – to a certain extent! Anything and everything that will reflect not only the tone and shade of the colour, but also what they want people to feel when they look at it.”
The golden rules
A colour name has many different questions to answer. “Does it help you immediately see what kind of colour it is?” asks Emily. “Does it help you understand the emotion or mood? Is it bright? Is it misty? Is it playful? Something like Polished Pebble is great because it immediately helps you understand what sort of grey it is and have that connection to it.”
If the colour is part of a range that has its own theme or story, the team also needs to consider it in the colour name. Heritage, for example, is our premium range of classic and sophisticated colours that symbolise our history and professionalism. If we’re adding new colours to that range, their names need to tell that story too.
But what’s just as important? “It also has to be a really good name,” says Emily. “Sometimes we can have a name that’s a great descriptor of a colour but not exactly a cool or exciting name to tell your friends. We want people to share that they’ve got Chic Shadow on their wall.”
Once everyone’s ideas from the creative session have been pooled together, Emily will take them away and whittle each colour down to around three to four names. She’ll then check them to make sure the names are unique.
So what’s in a name?
We asked Emily to share some of her favourites.
“Natural Calico, one of our best-selling classics, has an amazing name. The word calico is very evocative and textural. I also love Poison Apple. It’s a rich red-pink and the name immediately makes me think of Snow White.”
“We also had a really bright orange that came in last year and needed naming. Martha on our team came up with the wild-card name of Fandango Fun (featured in the bedroom above). If someone’s going to buy into that orange, they’re probably quite a fun person already!”
“And then there’s a colour called Jenny Wren in our Heritage collection. It’s a lovely colour, just like the feathers of a Jenny Wren, and it really connects with the story of heritage. But also… the brand team leader on that project was a lady called Jenny. It’s not something I’d normally do but I really wanted to get something in there that was personal to her – partly because she’d worked really hard on the project! When I told her it had made it through, she was really pleased. Jenny Wren had been her nickname when she was growing up.”
To find out how we name our Colour Of The Year, read our interview with Heleen Van Gent, Creative Director of AkzoNobel’s Global Aesthetic Centre.