Cymbolism: An Interview with Mubashar Iqbal

Picking the right color for your design can be a hassle, that’s why there’s so many color schemer tools out there, of course. Recently, a slightly different one was launched by Suffolk Software, called Cymbolism. What it does is that it asks you which color you associate with a word, “love” for instance, and use that data to suggest colors based on keywords, rather than just displaying sets. I found that interesting, so I decided to interview the developer, Mubashar Iqbal, about this service.

The Interview

So what is Cymbolism, your new web app?
Cymbolism is a crowd sourcing application that that attempts to quantify the association between colors and words. Users are shown a word, and are asked to select which color they associate with that word. The user votes are tallied to quantity which colors are most associated with that word.

How would you say a designer should use Cymbolism?
When working on a new design, the creative brief usually includes a few key words that help drive the design direction.

You can lookup these words on Cymbolism, via the search functionality, and see what color people associate with those words which can provide you starting point for your designs color scheme.

Even if you decided to go against the current trends, Cymbolism will tell you what the trend is.

What sparked the Cymbolism project?
I’m really bad a picking color schemes for my web projects, so I’ve been reading a lot of articles and books on color theory, and they mention the psychology of color a lot. I started searching around the web to see if there was something more up-to-date for those associations, when I couldn’t find anything the idea for Cymbolism was born.

What are your thoughts on how colors are used in web design today?
I think the bigger sites still play it a little too safe. Most of those sites have much the same light background with a little splash of color. Even companies that have strong color associations (UPS for example) don’t make strong enough use of these colors.

What do you think govern our color choices in design? Is it all trends?
External trends do play a large role in color choices. When we see one effective use of color it usually spawns a lot of copy cats.

Same is true off-line. We still pay too much attention to what the next big color will be at the annual fashion shows, driving a lot of color choice in the print world.

Online we are able to adapt quickly and easily so people should not be afraid to try new things.

I’d like to thank Mubashar Iqbal for the interview, and urge you all to take a look at Cymbolism. Maybe it can help you in your upcoming project!

  1. By Mubashar Iqbal posted on August 6, 2008 at 10:02 am
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    Thank you for taking the time to interview me.

    I’m very excited to see what Cymbolism reveals.


  2. By Fubiz posted on August 7, 2008 at 5:40 pm
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    Excellent itw!

  3. By Thord Daniel Hedengren posted on August 8, 2008 at 9:32 am
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    Thanks for doing the interview, Mubs. Cymbolism is an interesting project, so it’ll be nice to see what comes out of it.


  4. By Jake Rutter posted on August 15, 2008 at 9:19 am
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    Well done Mubs!

  5. By Rob W posted on September 1, 2008 at 11:31 am
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    This seems like a really interesting project; as a colour-blind web designer any unique and unusual ways of presenting and chosing colours for web designers like myself are always useful tools. I’m sure the accessibility fans will be interested in Cymbolism!

  6. By Victoria Blount posted on August 5, 2009 at 8:12 am
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    Cymbolism sounds like an interesting project, another technique to select and source and colour palette, for a website.

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