Cymbolism: The Test That Will Make You Forget about Color Psychology

March 20, 2015

4:48 pm

Even though I follow the news like everyone else, I’ve always had a soft spot for underdogs. You know, the apps they don’t tell you about, the products that get under the line on Product Hunt’s home page, etc. Sometimes you can find the most fascinating diamonds in the rough.

And I discovered one of those when I met one of Product Hunt’s “makers” (which is now a budding community, but more on that later) — Mubashar Iqbal. When it comes to building products, he’s compulsive.

In his words: “I couldn’t let a week go by without creating something.”

I love that attitude! And I love the culture of hustling — how else are we going to achieve every goal we set for ourselves?

Mubashar has a variety of interesting projects under his belt, including Interviewed — the database of startup-related podcasts—and Launchfeed, both of which trended on Product Hunt. But those are just another curation and another feed, technically nothing new.

But when he told me about Cymbolism, which was also hunted on Product Hunt recently (by Eric Willis), my ears really perked up. Not only that, he bet me I’ll get hooked on it, which of course I doubted.

Turns out he was right. Chances are, it’ll hook you, too.

What is Cymbolism?

Cymbolism is an online color-word association test, which asks you to associate a wide variety of words to specific colors. What really makes it valuable is the fact that after you answer, you see a color strip with all the colors and everybody’s answers in a way you understand which colors were more popular and which were less. And the color that “wins” is almost never your color, which is kind of infuriating, much like a game.


If you look at my own results, you’ll see that there are some obvious associations that you already know about, like goth = black, but you’ll also notice that there’s a lot of variety in the words nimble, tasty, jealous, and capable. The more I played with it, the sooner I realized this could surpass the generic “rules” of Color Psychology and create an entire graph for future designers to learn from. It would be a great tool for designers because it will empirically prove which colors are “safe” and which colors are not.

After all, it’s not about what color to choose, he says:

It’s about what color not to choose.

And it makes sense. If a certain color is associated with a variety of negative words, then it would really hurt your designs if you used it.

So if you’re a designer or a product manager or anyone who’s starting up and thinking about colors, give this test a go and when you’re done voting you can head to the words and colors tabs to explore some of the results so far. Of course, the final analysis would be far more interesting because it would ideally contain things like preferences by gender, nationality, etc.

To the future!

So far the database contains 856,356 votes! That’s a lot of yummy data.

When I spoke to Mubashar, he told me that he plans to collect the findings and release them in the form of an ebook, but he didn’t say when. Honestly, I reckon this project could do really well on Kickstarter. It’s one of those things that could benefit a lot of people.

If I’ve learned anything being in the entrepreneurial business, it’s that we all have great ideas once in a while, but we need motivation from others — confirmation if you will — to realize the most helpful ones.

So here’s your confirmation, Mubashar. And if this article gets a lot of shares, that’ll be all the more motivation to get on it.

Image credit: Flickr/josef.stuefer

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Violeta Nedkova is a writer, marketer, and entrepreneur, who lives on coffee and communities. She likes to meet new people, hear about exciting new ideas, and chat on twitter 24/7.