Many of you will be familiar with our friendly in-house mascot Alan. Alan is Pantone 381. Wherever Alan travels, he will look the same thanks to the universal colour system Pantone.
Pantone was created in the 1960s by Lawrence Herbert who saw how the industry was struggling to communicate around colour. Printers and designers had no clear way of describing their exact colour requirements. That's when the Pantone Matching System was launched, with the hope it would become the globally recognised language of colour. Pantone took a firm grip of the graphics industry and the colour system has kept growing to meet demands and fashions, adding new colours every year. Without Pantones there is still no guarantee we're all seeing the same colour. Computer screens don't always display colour correctly (remember That Dress where half the country saw it as gold and white and the other half as black and blue?).
Pantones do have their limits, which are becoming harder to work with. The now more commonly used CMYK process mixes four colours to produce the required shade. This means there is more flexibility in the mixing, which is essential for producing photos or other graphics including gradiented colours or opacities.
Digital print quality has vastly improved so the need for exact spot colours isn't what it was, leaving Pantones as often the more time-consuming and expensive option. Some multinational companies such as BT have now opted for CMYK for their branding. So where flexibility is key, where people expect to have an infinite number of choices open to them in the shortest time-scales, is Pantone becoming outdated? Or has it's position simply shifted from day to day use, to being reserved for brands requiring universal consistency everywhere from China to Chile?
Pantone has clearly been asking itself the same questions about its weakening grip on the industry and been broadening it's brand to make design and colour a greater part of everyone's lives. The business is certainly working hard to make its brand more than a professional's tool. Clever marketing initiatives have seen everything from Pantone mugs and pencil cases to Pantone hotels and cafés. The brand has become internationally recognised by those who have nothing to do with graphics and the business is building its reputation as a colour authority within popular culture. Pantone is fighting to remind us that it is a global brand and one we shouldn't cast aside too quickly.
The flip side of letting the marketing department take the lead, is that with the branding of colours such as Minion Yellow, designers everywhere will fear they have to strike that particular shade from their palette when creating anything vaguely similar to the banana-loving underlings, or risk crippling litigation from copyright lawyers.
Time will tell how the balance of power plays out between Pantone's design and marketing departments, and in the graphics and printing industry in the wider world. What is far more important is working with designers who understand colours and how they should be used. Designers who can talk you through the differences between Pantones, CMYK and RGB and which platforms they are appropriate for. Professionals who can use all of these colour systems to get the best and most cost-effective results for the client.
The designers at Kubiak are passionate about producing high quality, innovative work. Our experts understand that your choice of company colours are a vital first impression, setting the scene for your business. Get in touch to talk through the impact and use of colours on your brand and see how our team can make colour work for you.
Luckily Kubiak's Alan can happily exist as Pantone 381 or be digitally created as C25 M0 Y95 K0 and isn't keen on any particular fruit.
Posted: 26 February 2016 by Kubiak Team