Color Name Abstractions

Wednesday, October 19th, 02022 at 13:31 UTC

Color is one of our many topics of interest. When we see interesting color names, we always think of what’s behind the name. There is a psychological ability to getting good color or flavor name, and with even a tiny bit of work, you can move a name from good to great to amazing.

In a 02005 article entitled: Shades of Meaning: The Effect of Color and Flavor Names on Consumer Choice by Elizabeth G. Miller,  Barbara E. Kahn, they extend some 01975 research on color into four groups. You can view Shades of Meaning as a PDF online.

Knowing these groups will help you in your naming and improve your product.

TypicalCommonCommon Descriptive
AtypicalAmbiguousUnexpected Descriptive
2×2 Framework for categorizing color and flavor names.
  1. Common : Dark green, Light Yellow
  2. Common descriptive : Pine Green, Lemon Yellow
  3. Unexpected descriptive : Kermit Green, Rainslicker Yellow
  4. Ambiguous: Friendly Green, Party Yellow

Consumers tended to like Unexpected descriptive and Ambiguous more than Common and Common Descriptive names for colors and flavors.

These atypical categories acted like a puzzle to be solved by the reader. Think about this for your product name, ambiguous is not always bad, just be sure to make it easily pronounceable.

Here is an example over the years of what Apple called “Space Gray”. You can see the latitude in which you can play when you have a more Unspecified Descriptive name.

Now, they have taken it further with the name Starlight for devices and plenty of crazy names for their watch band colors: Sunglow, Elderberry, State Blue, Succulent, Chalk Pink, Storm Blue, Midnight and Starlight. All of which are either Ambiguous or Unexpected Descriptive. They could have used: Yellow, Purple, Blue, Light Green, Light Pink, Dark Blue, Black and White, but they obviously choose these names for a reason!

The paper cites the research and the gotchas. Once you actually show the color next to the name, some of the alluring affects fade from the consumers’ choice if the name was Ambiguous, but increases if it was Unexpected Descriptive.

Examples Used in the Research

Common: Dark Red, Dark Orange, Light Yellow, Light Blue, Light Brown, Dark Green, Pure White.

Common Descriptive: Cherry Red, Tangerine Orange, Lemon Yellow, Baby Blue, Chocolate Brown, Pine Green, Ivory White.

Unexpected Descriptive: Coke Red, Florida Orange, Rainslicker Yellow, Cookie Monster Blue, Freckle Brown, Kermit Green, Cotton White.

Ambiguous: Antique Red, Millennium Orange, Party Yellow, Passion Blue, Lucky Brown, Friendly Green, Snuggly White.

Apple Watch Band Color Names

The folks at have a nice freely downloadable chart with all the Apple Watch bands beautifully arranged. There, you can see all the different color names over the years and how the names have evolved between the four color categories.