Colour Cards

This exercise can be done by one person or in groups. The purpose is to explore how to label and thus code a spectrum of data and categorize it.

Visit a paint retailer and pick up several different color card samples with three or four tints, hues, and shades of color on each card. Notice how the manufacturer often creates evocative names for each color. For example, a color palette of oranges I found on one Behr Paint card includes the names “Trick or Treat” (a light tan), “Roasted Seeds” (a pastel orange), “Pumpkin Puree” (a dark tan), and “Jack O Lantern” (a light brown). As an analytic and categorization exercise, name what these four color “codes” in the palette have in common—their theme. One possible (if not obvious) category label is “Halloween.” But the goal is to make the category as creative as the related paint color codes. Thus, more evocative category names like “Fall Festival” or “October Night” to represent the four colors might better serve. Conduct this exercise with a few other color cards.

To further exercise your synthesizing abilities and creativity, put two different colors from separate color cards next to each other. For example, one combination might be “Moonlight Sonata” (a dark shade of blue) placed next to “Pancake” (a very light beige). If these two colors were literally or metaphorically mixed or swirled, what would be the name of the new combination? One label might be “Pancake Supper”; another could be “Blueberry Muffin.” The analogy is that the two colors could be subcodes, and their combination is their parent code; or the two colours are separate categories that join to form some type of relationship. Explore this exercise with a few varied two-colour combinations.

Next, transfer this exercise to actual excerpts of qualitative data related to the same topic (a sample is provided below). Collect three or four interview or document excerpts and code them creatively, as done with paint colors. Then develop an evocative category label or thematic statement that unifies the codes. Here are four perspectives from a public forum Internet conversation that address Washington state’s first days of legal marijuana sales, its high public demand yet short supply, slow state government regulatory oversight, and the early closure of one licensed store in Seattle due to selling out of its stock in just three days. As an example, one person posted, “Coincidentally, the market down the street sold out of Ben & Jerry’s [ice cream] also.” A possible creative code for this comment might be, MUNCHIE HUMOR:

1. So, where is the news about people going crazy, getting sick, and dying from smoking all this weed? Fact is, there isn’t any. People should educate themselves on how Cannabis works in the body. Look up “Cannabinoids and Endocannabinoid system.”

2. If we are going to get serious about taking the profits away from the drug cartels then the price of pot and the taxes being applied need to be reduced considerably in both Washington [state] and Colorado. Even though the norm for most business models is to make back the initial start-up money and to turn a profit inside of 5 years, these pot shops seem to be trying to recoup their investments in the first five months. Free Market Capitalism … it’s capable of screwing up just about everything. Grow Your OWN!

3. Ain’t that a shame. Government red tape is going to keep the illegal market flourishing for many more years.

4. Washington [state] will haul in nearly $150,000 in excise taxes from the first three days of legal marijuana sales—and that doesn’t include state and local sales taxes. The Liquor Control Board’s project manager for legal pot says that’s not bad, considering the market is in its infancy with only a few stores open statewide.