Recently Benjamin Moore has been running ads like this for the new “ben” line of paints in magazines like ReadyMade. The ads seem to validate beliefs that John Ruskin promoted in his 1859 essay “The Two Paths“, in which he contended that,
“No colour harmony is of high order unless it involves indescribable tints. It is the best possible sign of a colour when nobody who sees it knows what to call it, or how to give an idea of it to anyone else. Even among simple hues the most valuable are those which cannot be defined.”
But honestly, are there really colors that somehow can’t be described in terms of hue, value, and intensity? Using the method of color identification that Betty Edwards recommends in her book “Color: A Course in Mastering the art of Mixing Colors“, I can quickly look at the color and determine that it is a medium red-violet with an intensity level of 2. Or I can grab a Pantone swatch book off the shelf and tell you that that it’s PMS 675. I can tell you what the best CMYK, RGB, or Hexadecimal match would be if you give me another 10 seconds to launch Photoshop.
To be honest, I probably would have referred to the color in this particular ad as “purplish-magenta”, but that definitely has a better economy of words than the ad suggests might be necessary.
The point I’m trying to make is not that everyone should be able to describe colors, but that every color can be described, even if that means using terms like “baby-puke green”. But, maybe I’m wrong. If anyone has any real stumpers I’d be curious to see them. Send me an image or a photo, and maybe you’ll change my mind.