Behind the Colors: The Pantone Phenomenon

In design, color is king. And when it comes to color, there’s one name that stands above the rest: Pantone. But what exactly is Pantone, who is behind it, and what do they do? Let’s see.

What is Pantone?

Pantone, at its core, is a system of color identification and matching. Each color in the Pantone system has a unique code, making it easily identifiable and reproducible. This system is known as the Pantone Matching System (PMS), a proprietary color space used in a variety of industries, notably graphic design, fashion design, product design, printing, and manufacturing.

Before Pantone, every printing company had their own color guide; “yellow” was printed differently depending on how each individual ink company interpreted that color to look. In 1963, Pantone developed the first color matching system. Thanks to this system, graphic designers can see exactly what “yellow” would look like on paper and provide the printer with the Pantone number to make sure that they got what they wanted.

Who is Pantone?

Pantone LLC is an American limited liability company headquartered in Carlstadt, New Jersey. The company was founded in 1962 by Lawrence Herbert. Herbert used his chemistry knowledge to systematize and simplify the company’s stock of pigments and production of colored inks. By 1962, Herbert was running the ink and printing division at a profit, while the commercial-display division was in debt; he subsequently purchased the company’s technological assets and renamed them “Pantone”.

Throughout its history, the Pantone brand was acquired by X-Rite in 2007 for a whopping $180 million, and then later by the Danaher Corporation in 2012.

What Does Pantone Do?

Pantone provides a universal language of color that enables color-critical decisions through every stage of the workflow for brands and manufacturers. More than 10 million designers and producers around the world rely on Pantone products and services to help define, communicate and control color from inspiration to realization.

Pantone’s primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small thin cardboard or plastic sheets, printed on one side with a series of related color swatches and then bound into a small “fan deck”. The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to “color match” specific colors when a design enters the production stage, regardless of the equipment used to produce the color.

Pantone also offers digital and physical color specification and workflow tools, customized color standards, brand identity and product color consulting as well as trend forecasting inclusive of Pantone Color of the Year, Fashion Runway Color Trend Reports, color psychology and more

Pantone Color of the Year

Each year, Pantone selects a “Color of the Year”, which influences product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.

The Pantone Color of the Year is a symbolic color selection that serves as a snapshot of what is taking place in our global culture at a moment in time. For example, the Pantone Color of the Year for 2024 is PANTONE 13–1023 Peach Fuzz, a symbol of the global zeitgeist of the moment and the transition we are going through.

Selection Process

The selection process for the Pantone Color of the Year is thoughtful and involves trend analysis. The global team of color experts at the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. These influences can come from a variety of sources:

The entertainment industry and films in production
– Traveling art collections and new artists
– Fashion
– All areas of design
– Popular travel destinations
– New lifestyles, playstyles, and socio-economic conditions
– New technologies, materials, textures, and effects that impact color
– Relevant social media platforms
– Upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention

Each source carries a different weight from year to year, depending on what is taking place in our culture at that time. For instance, technology plays a much larger role today than it did 15 years ago.After the research is complete, representatives gather twice a year in Europe to determine the defining color for the coming year. The Pantone Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis. It is a culmination of the macro-level color trend forecasting and research that the global team involved with the Pantone Color Institute conducts year-round.

Pantone has revolutionized the design industry with its standardized color matching system. It has provided designers with a reliable and consistent way to communicate and reproduce colors, ensuring that the colors we design are the colors we get in the final product. As graphic designers, understanding and utilizing Pantone can help us create more accurate and consistent designs.

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