Vermilion Design + Digital Vermilion

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What’s in a name?


I’m often asked how I came up with the name “Vermilion.” Quickly followed by “and, what does it mean?” 

There are many influences, but one story I often share is I came across the color vermilion, a bright Chinese red, back in college when I was reading James Clavell’s Tai-Pan about the takeover of Hong Kong by British trading companies. Clavell claimed, “only the emperor among three hundred million is allowed to use vermilion ink.” I could see the Chinese Emperor signing proclamations for the entire empire in vermilion ink, and I identified with that sense of modesty.

Derived from the French word vermeil, Vermilion is made from the powdered mineral cinnabar, resulting in an orange-red hue. For centuries it was rare and expensive. It was used extensively by the ancient Romans, and later in manuscripts in the middle ages and paintings of the Renaissance. It is the sacred color of Shinto and is found at the Torii gates at every Shinto shrine in Japan.

Choosing a color for the name of a design firm made sense. It puts the work (and the process behind it) first. I liked the hue and sound of Vermilion, but its association with ancient cultures always interested me more. Plus it’s always been a good conversation starter.

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