Why do you need to localise colours?

October 16, 2015

Week 3: Why do you need to localise colours?


When it comes to website localisation, everything must be relevant and acceptable in the cultural context of each location.


Hence, a company would not promote a new competition in Spain having a black cat as a slogan, because the brand’s colour should create a good impression in the foreign market. 


I am not going to talk about the too often discussed topic of cultures and the meaning of colours. I am going to focus on the challenges that translators face when localising colours appearing in brochures or catalogues.


Take the following colour selection:



I would not find any difficulties rendering these terms into Spanish:


Espacio abierto, Loft, Oficina and Carretera seem good to me.


Now take the following ones:



In this case, the corresponding translations seem obvious: DOT-30, DOT-50 and DOT-70.


However, as we advance in the catalogue, difficulties arise in the following three colours:





The source text of the catalogue is English, but we find three colours in Italian. Why?


It may be the case that there may not be one to one translations in English, or it might be that the company has decided to keep the captivating Italian colours associated with their brand. After all, the English terms “Sand” and “Dove grey” are not quite elegant.


I often encounter these challenges, but clients do not think about it. What is more, translations of colours are usually different, and the consistency regarding colours within the same brand is far from acceptable.


I wish someone would provide us, translators, with some guidance, so we, translators, do not name colours differently for the same brand.


This is a real quote, after asking what I was supposed to do with colours:

“The client says to see catalogues available on the web site. Some are to be kept in English, others are translated.”


After visiting the website and flicking through different catalogues, colours kept changing over and again. Therefore, I made my own decision indepently whether it was right or wrong.


Have you found any difficulties associated with colours while translating or localising?


Next week, I will share some tips to keep in mind when dealing with Monetary Units and Numbers.


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