{the life} This post aside, I love naming things

by Rachel on September 13, 2012

paint chips

Today at work, Jacob, Jesse, and I were working on a big project that ended with us creating a color palette. Once we finished, Jacob turned to me and said, “You finally get your dream job…you can name the colors.”

Before he even got the sentence out, my face LIT UP. You see, naming colors IS my dream job. I think I first listed “the person who names the makeup colors” as what I’d like to be when I grew up in approximately 1993. I always took careful note of the color names when I looked at (and later purchased) makeup. I also remember a few years ago, a friend asked what color something was — I want to say it was the color of the dining room in another sorority house or something like that. The three other people all said “green” at the same time, while I said “moss.” Everyone laughed at me but…it was moss. It wasn’t just green! How did they not see that?!

And maybe it’s just because I care about this stuff, but the names of colors totally influence my purchases. If one brand calls a shade “grey”…and another brand calls it “cable-knit”…even if it’s the same damn color, I’m going to buy the one that invokes something I love. It’s why I’ve been buying Essie instead of OPI lately…OPI is just making my teeth hurt with those puns. (I actually just turned in a post for Color Me Rouge a couple days ago about how the name of an Essie color had a big effect on me — I’ll share that when it’s live!) The name of an item of clothing has a similar effect. Why is it called the “Jackie” dress? I’ll think while flipping through a catalogue. I don’t know, but I like it better than “Style 13031” in this other catalogue.

I’m actually fascinated by the names companies choose (and not just for makeup) because now that I actually do get to name things for a living, I know how much thought goes into it. The debates my coworkers and I have at work over what to name things are both incredibly small and really important for branding. (Not so much with the names of this color palette today, but the color palette itself was huge.) In the evenings, Eric will ask how my day was, and I’ll say something like, “Well, we spent 45 minutes arguing…WHY COULDN’T THEY JUST SEE THAT ‘MEMBER’ IS THE RIGHT WORD, NOT ‘USER’?!?!? FOR FUCK’S SAKE, I’M SO STRESSED OUT. How was your day?” And then Eric will me about the new children’s hospital he’s helping design. Psssh. So the children’s hospital has air conditioning during the next Houston heat wave? Great…but what are they going to call it? And how will they punctuate it? You know…the things that matter?!

Do you care about the names of colors when you’re buying a product? Please come geek out with me in the comments.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mel September 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Hahah this is great. I’m looking forward to reading these responses since names are not my forte at all. You know what I do totally get geeked up about though? MAPS. Airline maps, train maps, campus maps, world maps, city maps, restaurant maps, construction maps, family trees and floor plans. I like seeing how things are connected.


2 Emily Susan September 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I am with you. As a “pretend” historian (read graduate student) I love coming up with the names for chapters and sub headings and *gasp* titles. When I get the perfect one, it totally psychs me up to write more!

I love to read paint colors, nail colors, hair, and I hate it when they do not fit my own definition! However, you read my mind when you said about naming clothes! I was thinking it as I read the first part of this post then was so excited to see it. However this can be dangerous when shopping online, Oh this is called “Campus Pant” My brain says “I am on campus all the time, I need those pants!” Or “Lake House Hoodie” Brain says “Oh My grand parents had a lake house. I MUST add to cart now! Even if I don’t like the actual article of clothing!


3 Rachel September 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm

OMG YES, I totally fall in love clothes based on where the name suggests you’d wear them! Anything that sounds cozy or warm (like is “lake house hoodie” a real thing? because I want it)…I’m sold.

Also, titles/subtitles are the best part of history papers (and non-fiction/history books)…I can’t even imagine how much fun you are having with this!


4 Emily Susan September 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm

It is a blast! I just have a problem keeping out irrelevant cultural references, like Vampire Weekend songs or awkward puns that my professors frown upon. Eh.. well grad school needs to lighten up


5 Anne September 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

A recently used “Rhyme-less Orange” “Beginners Red” and “Violet Finale” in a poem. Steal away.


6 Amanda Y September 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm

As an interior designer, everything I touch has a fancy name (paint colors, fabric/wallcovering, stone, metal finishes, laminates, furniture pieces, etc etc). While I do take pleasure & interest in reading the names, I can’t say they really affect my decision when specifying something. Other types of branding (packaging, font, layout, etc), however, do. If two products are similar in look & quality I will usually lean toward the one from the most nicely designed catalog/website even if it’s called “beige” instead of “shoreline”.


7 katie September 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I am with you! I don’t wear much makeup but i always have a stronger connection with products when they have a good name! Bud light platinum: i drank that like crazy when it first came out, it just sounds so much cooler than other light beer. And i have a purse that was the “delightful” style and it makes me smile!


8 Amy September 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Rachel, I don’t know exactly when I found your blog but I think it’s time to come clean and tell you I love it so so much. This article made me laugh a lot, and like most of your articles I’m just like, “this is exactly spot on”

Thanks for making my days (prim)rosier :)


9 Rachel September 14, 2012 at 8:06 am

Awww, thanks for this! Also, “(prim)rosier” put a huge smile on my face.


10 Lauren Roady September 14, 2012 at 12:01 am

5. While I don’t think I have a particular gift for it, or could do it better than those who are professional product-namers, I am absolutely fascinated with the strange (often nonsensical) names of cosmetics. In college, my friends and I spent a good afternoon sitting around thinking of our dream jobs. No income restrictions, no reality constraints: what is your dream job? There was “baby animal holder”, “extreme sports guy”, and believe it or not, I chose “nail polish namer”. Imagine it! You sit in a boardroom and argue with other nail polish namers, trying to convince each other that the name “Bike Ride” really does convey a pale pink shade of polish (p.s. that is actually my favorite Essie shade). I envy your burden of color naming responsibility. And I absolutely believe the name of a shade has an influence on the purchase. For me, I like clever packaging and taglines. Bike Ride is just weird enough, and I can always remember it at the nail salon!


11 Rachel September 14, 2012 at 8:06 am

I love clever packaging and taglines too! I was just gushing at work yesterday how much I love USA Network’s “Characters Welcome.”

It’s funny what you said about the nail salon…I think that’s a HUGE part of why they do it. If someone asks me what color nail polish I’m wearing, it helps if the name is memorable/catchy. (I think that’s why I’m over the OPI colors…some of them are just hard to say out loud without feeling ridiculous.) But if the name kinda sticks in your head because it’s clever/interesting/or just odd (like bike ride!) you’ll remember it when shopping, getting your nails done, or when someone asks you about it!


12 Laura M September 14, 2012 at 7:41 am

yes, totally! i love NARS products because they always have these funky and provocative names for their products like orgasm and deep throat.

and i also have a job where we talk about word use and naming/branding products and as taxing as it is on the mind (i.e., me obsessively trying to come up with just the right words), it’s so much fun!


13 Lissa September 14, 2012 at 7:50 am

I could not agree with you more! Names mean A LOT to me. And it definitely influences my purchasing decisions. Same as a book cover will influence my decision to buy a book. I see the title then look at the cover art. If the cover art is lame then I am not even going to bother with the synopsis.

I actually took a color course in college. The prof said that by the end of the quarter we would be able to see over 250 different variations of color. Boy was she right! I drive my kids crazy when they say this is yellow or red. I will come back with no it is more of a warm orange or burgundy. :)


14 Sarah September 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Im so with you! I remember in elementary school crayola had a contest where you could name the colors and I was obsessed! Have you ever been to http://www.colourlovers.com/ ? I get insanely happy if I make a pallet and use a color no one has used before because then you get to name it!
When I was younger I used to draw people in notebooks just so I could give them a full name. I cant wait to have kids so I can name them (among other things). I would love to be able to turn my love of naming things into a job!


15 Aj September 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I am forever teased by my BFF’s mom (aka my other mom) for insisting my BFF refer to the Crayola colors by their given name. NOT PINK, magenta – obviously! To this day, marketing definitely has an effect on me (despite my feminist sensibilities). Label the same exact thing with “organic” or “detox” and I’m about a million times more likely to buy it. I definitely refer to cosmetics by their full name (I’m not wearing “green nail polish,” I’m wearing “Ulta, Army of One” – adore! by the way). I truly believe that words themselves can carry a strong weight and an emotional value and, thus, what something (or someone) is named is very important both for marketing but also for communication. A large vocabulary can be our most powerful weapon.


16 Rachel September 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm

You know, your comment made me consider how it would be silly for people to dismiss words or say they don’t carry a strong weight…if that weren’t true, we wouldn’t fight so hard about words that hurt or that are slurs. Words totally elicit emotional responses, good or bad, and so I think that’s why I love to write and why I’m so drawn to the words we choose for things.


17 emme September 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

reading the newest edition of opi nailpolish names is one of my favorite things. honestly.


18 Katie September 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm

My company (kids’ fashion) always has great names for our signature/seasonal colors –Vintage Black, Jolly Grape, Big Top Red, Stiletto, Concrete, etc — as well as fun garment names! I love it.


19 Annabelle September 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

As an artist with an interest in graphic design, I am so with you. If something has a catchy, witty, or sometimes just extra descriptive name (Seriously, “lake house hoodie”? GIMMIE), I’m tons more likely to at least look into purchasing it. It just makes me think that, if the company’s willing to put the time and effort into naming it something actually creative or fun or whatever, they’re likely to put the extra time into actually making the product itself; it feels like I’m buying something that’s just more quality, if that makes sense. Sometimes, it’s just even that the particular words speak to me for some reason.


20 Adam D. Oglesby September 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Rachel, you seem to approach life with a quirky slant that I find interesting and strangely familiar.

For me, I’m anything but conventional.

Conventional can be…well, to be honest, conventional can at times be downright boring. I find myself much more drawn to the unorthodox, the off center, the asymmetrical.

I do aspire to be a wordsmith. Exactly how successful that endeavor’s been may be up for debate.

In my life and in my writing I attempt to avoid the most obvious clichés. There’s always another way of seeing it, saying it, reimagining it–a way of making your audience say, “Hmmm, now that hasn’t been beaten to death!”

And by the way, are you sure that the color of that table wasn’t diarrhea green, or sea-sick-passenger green or Listerine-Mint green?

I’m just saying…!


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