Have you ever wondered who comes up with the colors trending in fashion, furniture, makeup, etc? Well, there is a company who chooses the colors that will be trending but it is a company who started out as a color printing company in the 1950's. The founder was quoted as saying that god created the world in seven days and this company was created on the eighth day to choose colors for the world.
Back in the 1950's, Larry Herbert worked at a company called Pantone. This company printed color orders but Larry grew frustrated when it came to trying to communicate colors with the clients. A client might say sky blue but what did he mean by sky blue and what shade did he mean? At the time, the company made color cards for the people who manufactured cosmetics so all they needed to do was point to the proper color and it could be made. This lead Larry to conclude these color cards could be used in just about any field dealing with color.
At this time, there were no international or national color standards. Larry recognized that standardized colors would work in so many different fields, so he began designing a comprehensive color system where every color was assigned a number. The original book had 40 colors. He reached a point where he bought out the printing company in 1962 and renamed it Pantone and marketed his system as the Pantone matching color system. These books were quite successful and by the 1970's he'd sold over 100,000 books he'd printed in New Jersey. Although there are other color systems out there, Pantone is the most popular and most well known internationally.
This color system makes it easy to communicate with manufacturers, or even dealing with supply chains, a possibility where people can lose control of the color but with this standardized system, it is easy to get the exact color desired because you don't have to rely on samples that might change slightly over time.
Due to the popularity of the color system, Pantone quit doing commercial printing and switched to only working with colors and at the same time their customer base expanded to people who printed things, worked in industrial design who needed plastic or metal in certain colors, or fashion people who want specific colors in their outfits.
What is unique about Pantone is that they sell access to their intellectual property via a digital library, or physical catalog. Pantone has become more scientific in assigning their color labels over the years. It has gotten to the point of being able to use a color spectrophotometer to define the individual elements that make up a color. This means that the red on the soda can is the exact same red found on the boxes they are shipped in and the same red that is on the billboard advertisement.
The Herbert family sold Pantone in 2007 for $180 million to X-rite a company who make spectrophotometers. Since then, the company uses color physiologists to help people understand how color can sway us and our emotions. This branch helps companies decide how to best use color in product lines or logos. Think of it this way, the Starbucks logo uses a specific shade of Pantone green and if anyone else uses the same tint in a competing brand, they will end up being sued.
Thus Pantone has created the language of color used by just about everyone in any industry that has color. One day on a lark back in 2000 or so, Pantone declared a certain color as color of the year and they have done it since them. Although it does bring Pantone to the news media, many smaller companies use that color of the year in many of their produced items over the year.
So every color you see in the store, in makeup, in a friends house, or in the hobby shop, have a number assigned to them by this company. One could almost say that Pantone is the god of color. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.
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