What's in a Name

December 16, 2014

@ainsleywagon, Ainsley Wagoner

Stories behind the hex values. e.g., darkred. (Or my favorite, tomato!) For example, Rebecca Purple.

Color Chart

So, how did we get these names?

First of all, they're not CSS originals, but web standard originals (which is why you can use them with SVG). X-Window System: they come from one of the first GUI interfaces.

Late 80s: Lots of color names weren't standardized until X11. Then, Netspace > HTML Browsers > CSS.

So why did it take so long?

It takes a long time to get things into spec! Also, we're all familiar with hex values, which has so many possibilities.

But you should still use them! Why? They were put through the ringer for web accessibility. They're not case sensitive, recognized cross-browser, work across HTML & SVG, and last but not least: they have fun names <3

navajowhite: why is it named this and why is it orange?

So who was behind this?

Paul Ravelling, who got them from Sinclair paint swatches! So why the silly names? Because paint swatches have insane names because there really so many different kinds of beige/off-white.

So why so many beiges/off-whites, anyway?: Because there are so many options for desktop backgrounds.

A lot of our color names come from Crayola. Are you surprised?

Adding Colors

This is actually fairly rare. (We're still working off the list published in 1989, with the exception of Rebecca Purple). Even this was added fairly quickly, but to lots of controversy. Web standards people take their jobs very seriously; but should this be something we're allowed to change as a community? Default is boring! Shouldn't we question standards to improve them?


Hey, people gotta read. Color shouldn't be the only visual means of conveying information.

Color should be used to have fun!:


But... I work on serious stuff. Like banks.: So use illustrations as an opportunity to make things beautiful. Don't ask permission, just use pastels.

(Also, thistle is a beautiful CSS color.)

We should push for more colors. Because color just comes along with creativity! <3

Update, 1/28/15

You can now watch @ainsleywagon's talk on Youtube!