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The name game

31 Jan 2019

When you look at a paint chart ready to choose a shade to bring your vision to life, have you ever wondered: “Who names all those colours?”

Making up monikers for newcomers to Resene’s vast painterly palette is a role managing director Nick Nightingale shares with marketing manager Karen Warman. With more than 3000 hues already on the charts, it gets harder over the years but remains great fun.

With more than 3000 hues already, coming up with names for colours keeps getting harder. This dark blue is Resene Zinzan - three guesses to where that came from?

Inspiration everywhere

When Ted Nightingale began his company in 1946, there weren’t enough paint colours to bother with names. All that changed when his son, Tony, introduced New Zealand to the colour chart in the late 1960s.

These days, around 100 new colours per annum are added. “Sometimes we start with a name and see if a colour fits; other times, we look at the colour for inspiration,” says Karen.

Ted’s grandson Nick often takes his cue from musicians. That’s how Resene Ringo (the shade of ‘beetroot mousse’) made it to the 2018 chart. His three daughters all have a colour named after them - Resene Scarlett – spicy red; Resene Geneva – soft mint; and Resene Janna – an ever-changing neutral.

Karen finds it easier to name strong colours – think Resene Happy (bright yellow) or Resene Daredevil (fluoro orange) - - but beiges and greens are harder. One exception is ‘Colins Wicket’. This ochre green was named after the slow-bowl pitch beloved of Resene technical director of 40 years, Colin Gooch.

Other Resene staff contribute suggestions. One regular submission that hasn’t made it to the charts yet is ‘Marmalade’. “There hasn’t been a colour launched in the last six years to suit it,” explains Karen.

Many years more than 100 colours are added, so you'll be sure to find something fun to paint the kids' rooms with.

Themes and dreams

Iconic names and phrases have earned a rightful place in hearts over the years. Resene Pohutukawa is the most popular red, but there’s also Resene Fish N Chips (ochre gold) and Resene She’ll Be Right (bold teal). 

Colours that are destined for kids’ bedrooms tempt them into the rainbow universe: Resene Rocket, Resene Bright Spark, Resene Kermit and Resene Zoop De Loop are some examples.

While the charts are themed, fan decks are topical with names relevant to modern society. That’s why you’ll find colours like Resene Bluetooth and Resene FOMO in the line-up.

A name lasts a lifetime at Resene – even if a colour isn’t on a current colour chart, Resene staff can look it up for you and tint it.

Do the white thing

Today, Resene’s most popular neutral is ‘Black White’ – which only reached top billing in the last couple of years but was named by Tony Nightingale more than 30 years ago. Tony also christened another classic: timeless ‘Pearl Lusta’. He spelt ‘lusta’ differently as a nod to how desirable he hoped the colour would become.

Colours never die

Colours with a strong name tend to sell more – “whether it’s a fluke or the name encourages people to use it more, we don’t know.” A name also lasts a lifetime; even though a colour may have dropped off the charts, it won’t have dropped from production. “We keep the formula in our archive and can still make it up if you request it.”

When Resene creates a custom colour match for a customer, the customer also has the chance to name it. While the naming conventions aren’t super strict - there are some considerations taken into account for the name and once agreed, the name will be entered into the Resene colour database. This means that when a customer needs more of that paint in the future, they can ask for their colour.

Not all colour names survive the evolution of word usage however. A heritage creamy-brown paint was called ‘Drab’ - a name commonly used a century ago but in more modern times has become to mean something unexciting. Resene decided to give the name a makeover calling it ‘Bowman’, and giving it the prestigious honour of being named after the architect Ian Bowman who helped develop the heritage colour chart that features that colour.

Think you have a good name for a colour? Check to see it hasn’t already been used then go to the Resene website to suggest it and you might just see it on a future Resene colour chart.