So I'm using one of the UI frameworks for a project I'm working on and I notice that there's a general naming convention for use of specific colors that are represented as moods.


Assertive = Red

Calm = Blue

Stable = Gray

Balanced = Green

etc and so forth...

More specifically I'm looking at Ionic Framework which has I think 9 of these mood specified color assets. I need to expand on these and provide multiple other colors/hues etc for the same type of usage throughout the app to meet our needs.

So my question is. Did this mood naming convention originate from somewhere documented, or is it just some adhoc idea someone came up with? For instance if there's some standard that expands on this concept, what is it?

I ask so that as I add more colors in this fashion and reference them by generic mood names to kind of keep with the naming conventions of the framework, I can try to be congruent with (if) there is some sort of a standard they're following that I'm not able to find?

I figure this way if a new designer joins the team in the future, the learning curve would likely be reduced if familiar naming conventions are utilized. Thanks for any insight!

  • This might be a good question to post on Graphics StackExchange as well... might get a different insight from visual designers.
    – Michael Lai
    May 15, 2015 at 3:29

3 Answers 3


Meanings of colors vary by culture. Of course, a few colors have similiar meanings everywhere, for example gold stands for sucess and high quality in most cultures. On the other hand in the U.S. white signifies purity and is used at weddings, but in other cultures white is color used for death and funerals.

It's very likely that the authors used meanings of colors in their culture, or even came up with what suited them best. Recently, I found Colours in Cultures poster, which could help you with deciding new color names.

  • +1 very good point about culture sensitive context of colours, and a good basic reference too.
    – Michael Lai
    May 15, 2015 at 3:28
  • Thanks, I didn't consider the culture sensitivity of the concept either. Not beyond Goethe's color palette identification of personality types.
    – Chris W.
    May 15, 2015 at 13:58
  • Part I - There is (almost) a century of research on this topic. As Aadam points out, there are cultural differences in the meaning of color. However, 'meaning' and 'emotion' are not the same thing. I'll attempt to answer the question as it is posed where mood is related to emotion. First, the relationship between emotion and color depends on your model of emotion. Second, 'color' can be broken down into hue, chroma, and brightness. The rest of my comment references research into this topic. Whether the UI framework color names are based on this research is unknown. May 15, 2015 at 15:56
  • Part II - Examination of the relationship between Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance model of emotion and hue, brightness, and chroma. See page 402+. Similar research using valence-arousal. May 15, 2015 at 16:01
  • Part III - Three examples of research results with the emotion-color mapping. 1. Page 13. 2. Section 3.2. 3. Table 2+. May 15, 2015 at 16:02

There are many different color-semantic mapping schemes, but most have some basis in color theory.

Color theory is quite expansive so an explanation of how specific colors are matched to meaning is probably not suitable for UX.SE.

Fortunately there are a lot of resources available to help you work through this. The term you want to look up is "color theory" or "color theory for designers".

For example, this article provides some helpful background and further links that you can mine.


I think based on the naming scheme for the themes that it might be more of a semi-random convention rather than anything else. In fact, I think you'll find it very difficult to stick to the convention and expanding on it simply because of the ambiguity in the naming scheme. If you examine it more closely:

  • light: could be referring to colour or weight, so the opposite could be dark (which is used) or heavy (what colour would go here?)
  • stable: refers only to a feeling
  • positive: refers to a feeling, but does the colour on the opposite end of the colour spectrum indicate 'negative'?
  • calm: I like the fact that calm is a derivative of positive, but this type of relationship is difficult to maintain for other moods/emotions
  • balanced: not sure why green means balanced...
  • energized: this is where the intensity of the colour has more bearing than the actual colour itself I think
  • assertive: it's difficult/tricky to assign red to a theme, since you have to use it for other things like notifications, messages, etc
  • royal: this is an interesting naming convention because it is definitely culture sensitive; in other countries purple might have nothing to do with royalty
  • dark: matches with light, and probably the only pair that makes sense to me

I suggest looking at the branding guidelines that you develop so there is an understanding of all the colours that will be used in the established palette, then think about a naming convention.

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