Where the ordinary person sees a bright blue sky, Linda Trent sees shades of Amalfi, Blue Horizon, June Day and Blissful Blue.
Trent is the director of color marketing and design for Sherwin-Williams Co. Which means it was her job to come up with and name the 1,000 new paint colors that her company is debuting this spring. When you have dozens of shades of blue to label, "bright blue" just isn't an option. "It's a massive undertaking," Trent says.
How does she do it?
Trent says she has one goal "to try to describe a color in such a way that's going to help someone make a selection" but four different strategies for accomplishing that goal. The first is to use a very literal description. Examples are the colors Waterfall, Torch Light, Cucumber and Bagel. "If someone is planning to redo their breakfast nook and they're thinking in terms of tan, the name Bagel offers an image of warmth and comfort and even deliciousness," Trent explains,
" 'Light tan' wouldn't do that."
Her second strategy is it to choose names that "incorporate emotion and help us to establish a mood that a room painted in that color might reflect." Examples are the colors Rosey Outlook, Optimistic Yellow, Beguiling Mauve and Sedate Gray. Trent says this is her favorite method of naming colors. "But when you have a thousand colors, you have to have a little variety going on there," she adds with a laugh.
Her third strategy is to use a personality trait. "Something that people can grab on to as far as personal expression," she explains. Examples are Independent Gold, Obstinate Orange, Social Butterfly, Impetuous and Realist Beige. When coming up with the last color, she says she imagined a person perusing colors at the paint store. Despite all the trends toward bold colors, this imaginary person likes neutrals. When he or she sees Realist Beige, the reaction is, "See? That's me; I'm a realist."
Lastly, Trent selects color names that are more poetic and less descriptive in nature. Heart Throb is a bright red color. Elation is a clean, warm lilac. Enigma, she says, "is a difficult-to-describe kind of reddish cocoa color."
The most popular seller, though, is Dover White, which Trent characterizes as a creamy, yellow-cast shade of white until we press her on it.
"Oh yeah," she admits, "It's off-white."