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We’ve all browsed through glossy fashion magazines sitting in some waiting room or salon, educating ourselves about this season’s ‘it‘ color trends. But who decides which colors will be in vogue, or in the pages Vogue for that matter? You guessed it…Pantone!

Photo by Uby Yanes on Unsplash

Most graphic designers and print professionals are familiar with Pantone® and their global standard Pantone Matching System (PMS for short) as THE global standard for assuring project colors will match across various substrates (be it paper, plastic, or textiles), printed and digital. But did you know that what started out as a printing industry standard has evolved to define famous brands as well as fashion trends? Fashion-by-numbers.

Photo by Christina Rumpf on Unsplash

How It all Began

Founded in Carlstadt, N.J. in the 1950s by ad exec brothers Mervin and Jessie Levin, Pantone began as a commercial printing company, in addition to their M & J Levine Advertising firm. In 1956, the Levines hired Lawrence Herbert, who got to work using his knowledge of chemistry to systematize and simplify the company’s stock pigments and inks into a replicable system. This innovation proved to be a commercially successful enterprise. By 1962, Herbert purchased the technology from the Levine Brothers and renamed it “Pantone”. A star was born.

Color by Committee

With nearly 2000 shades in its library, Pantone is unrivaled when it comes to color matching, and they know how to wield their influence as a result. Since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute has met twice yearly in a secret European location to determine the color(s) of the year. Every May and November a group of 10 people from various industries from auto to big retail hold up for two days in a white-walled room — so as not to be distracted from their colleagues’s objets d‘inspiration — presenting and debating their “color cases” until finally, they arrive at a THE color trend for the season. David Shah, publisher and designer who happens to run these clandestine color cohorts, told NPR, “One of our committee [members] came last winter [2010], … with a basket full of onions and chopped up all the onions to show how the beauty of the color of an onion is.”

“Each year, our Pantone Color of the Year is a color we see crossing all areas of design. It’s a… color that will resonate around the world, a color that reflects what people are looking for and what they feel they need that color to answer.”
– Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute

For 2021, Pantone chose two colors, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating to represent hope, optimism and stability following the stress, chaos, and uncertainty of 2020.

“Because the mood or what is taking place in our society changes or evolves from one year to the next, the color[s] we select will always change,” “Color is a language that expresses what is taking place in our global culture.”
– Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute

Is it just me, or do 2021’s Colors of the Year, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating [Yellow] remind you of a lone desert highway?

Photo by Alexis Mette on Unsplash

From House Paint and Hand Bags

  • According to market research group NPD, Pantone has influenced the color of nearly half of all garments sold in the U.S. Yes, that Hilfiger shirt may be PMS 300.
  • In mid-2006, Pantone partnered with Vermont-based Fine Paints of Europe to introduce a new line of exterior and interior paints — creating over 3,000 colors. Now you can paint your kitchen that sunny PMS 130C you’ve always dreamed of!
  • Then in November 2015, Pantone partnered with Redland London to create a collection of bags, including backpacks and luggage. That Living Coral 16–1546 will totally stand out on an airport baggage carousel.
  • Pantone’s 2012 Color of the Year, even inspired a makeup line created in partnership with Sephora. The Sephora + Pantone Universe collection included such Tangerine Tango 17–1463-inspired products as false lashes, nail lacquers, creams, glitters, and lip glosses. Is it any wonder makeup palettes bare a striking resemblance to Pantone swatch sets?
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

On a side note, as a crafter who enjoys knitting and crochet, I wish Pantone would put out a line of yarns. How many times have you started crocheting an afghan only to realize you needed more yarn and the dye lot didn’t match!

Matching Merch!

Pantone isn’t only a color giant in the printing and fashion worlds, it’s also a lifestyle! You too can rock such stylish accessories as mugs, notecards, and key chains. Or maybe you have your eye on that snazzy Living Coral roller bag?

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

One Last Thing . . .

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It’s 4 pm somewhere! Kick back, relax, and enjoy ’Berta’s take on all things colorful and creative. Have a Martini Minute!

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Martini Minute

Hi Everybody! I’m Roberta Morris, Founder and Creative Director of Leave It to ’Berta. Read my take on all things colorful and creative.