Cataloging colors

catalogcolorsWhat does it take to name a color? Manufacturers do it every day for their own convenience. It helps them keep track of what they’re making and how it’s selling and distinguishes one season from another. Apparently, it also makes colors more desirable, forming associations between random hues and exotic places and objects and values and flavors and anything else that might help sell.
Still, there’s something presumptuous about assigning a title to a particular color, like naming a star or a species or a mountain. Who gave Old Navy that right? And what a sloppy job they do too, giving very different colors the same name or vice versa. Crayola and Pantone are a lot better at it.
All this cavalier designation helps to compromise what we see. The names are meaningless because the relationship between the names and the colors are so inconsistent. These blues aren’t the same when they are printed in our catalogs, or on our computers screens, or dyed into yarn, or worn in sunlight, or washed ten times.
What matters in the end is not these ill-fitted names but the fact that we recognize and appreciate the many hues we see all around us, that we don’t become desensitized through commerce’s clumsiness and yen to market everything under the sun, and start to mistrust the incredible abilities of our eyes and brains. When we try to shoehorn colors into chip and swatches, we diminish our environment and blind ourselves, just a little bit more, to the infinite subtlety and wonder of the universe.

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