The World Leader in Color Influences Culture
Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky once said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” That’s heady stuff. And whether or not it influences our souls, it definitely has an impact on us. Take a look around. Color is everywhere, affecting your thoughts and feelings. And who knows color better than Pantone, “the global color authority and provider of professional color standards for the design industries”?
No matter how evocative color is, part of its allure lies in mathematics. Well, maybe not math per se, but definitely numbers. Numbers are extremely important in color matching.
The thought behind color matching was the idea of Lawrence Herbert, who in the 1960s was the owner of the Pantone printing company. Interestingly enough, the idea came from pantyhose, according to Pagan Kennedy’s 2013 New York Times article “Who Made That Pantone Chip?” The problem was that companies used different terms to describe beige. And worse than that, they never knew exactly the shade of beige they were going to get.
Does color affect the soul, as Kandinsky suggested?
This is when Herbert realized that he could solve the problem with numbers. “If somebody in New York wanted something printed in Tokyo, they would simply open up the book and say, ‘Give me Pantone 123,’” he told Kennedy. This meant that “123 (a daffodil yellow) would look exactly the same the world over.”
The 1970s is really when the ball got rolling for Pantone. That’s when the company, Kennedy wrote, “was making more than a million dollars a year in licensing fees.” Herbert added, “We had a consultant who would get a committee together and find out, for example, what colors are showing up in Milan, what colors are showing up in Paris.”
And that “consultant” has grown into an entire synergistic combination of color, fashion and culture. The colors affect fashion, and vice versa. It can’t be a coincidence that there are dominant colors during fashion shows, colors that eventually seep into every aspect of the sales and marketing of fashion.
This only makes sense because, as Pantone says on its website, “one of the first decisions of the day concerns color harmony.” The question of what you are going to wear for the day is based on color first. Style and fabric don’t enter the equation until you decide that you want to wear red or green or Delphinium Blue (Pantone alert! Smart Swatch 16-4159). And if you think about it (and you can’t help yourself now), “What color?” is the question that drives all decorating decisions, from your walls to your kitchen counter to your furniture.
No matter how evocative color is, part of its allure lies in mathematics.
The importance of color and its effect on us cannot be overstated. The Pantone website explains: “Red has been shown to stimulate the senses and raise the blood pressure, while blue has the opposite effect and calms the mind.” And if a company wants to use the color red, describing it as merely “red” just isn’t going to cut it. It will decide that its red will be Pompeian Red 18-1658 TCX or Lipstick Red 18-1764 TCX or Fiery Red 18-1664 TCX or … well, you get the picture.
In addition to color matching, Pantone is famous for naming its color of the year. And following on the heels of 2013 color of the year Emerald was 2014’s Radiant Orchid. In the announcement, Pantone said Radiant Orchid 18-3224 was “a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple.”