By: Landon Seely [Account Services]
I want to pause for an instant and celebrate the little victories; the small things that are often overlooked, but would be greatly missed should they suddenly disappear. Today, let’s take a moment to consider the Pantone Matching System.
I’ll begin with a personal story. One morning earlier this year, I offered to grab some coffee for some of the caffeine addicts in the office. The orders began pretty basic - skinny vanilla latte, decaf coffee, black, hazelnut with room for cream and sugar - nothing I couldn’t handle.
Then I made my way to a certain account executive who shall remain nameless. She apologized before giving me her order as she simultaneously reached for a book full of color swatches. Uh oh. What was this? She flipped through a couple of pages before landing on a light shade of brown. “There. This one. That’s how I want my coffee to look after cream is added.” After ripping out the color swatch, she handed it to me and I was on my way.
What I carried with me to the coffee shop was a single chip from the Pantone Matching System. The system was developed in the early 1960s by Lawrence Herbert, owner of the Pantone printing company. Herbert created a unified color system in which each shade was expressed as a number. Brilliant! By assigning a specific number to virtually every color, it created uniformity across the board. It really took off and by the 1970s the system was generating more than a million dollars in licensing fees. The Pantone system has been responsible for defining the colors for everything from the American flag to the Apple II computer. Today, designers and graphic artists depend on the system for printing purposes.
It dawned on me somewhere between the office and Starbucks that the account executive was actually cutting me a break. Sure, it seemed a bit picky at first but now I knew exactly how she liked her coffee and I had the Pantone chip to prove it. There was little room for misinterpretation of what we both thought a splash of cream looked like.
Not unlike my experience, the Pantone Matching System solves a potentially large problem in printing. The way a color is displayed on your computer monitor is a little different than the way that same color is displayed on your client’s monitor; which is a little different than the way your printer wants to produce that color; which is a little different than the way your client’s printer makes that color. You get the picture (no pun intended, sorry).
So let’s all take a minute to thank Lawrence Herbert and the Pantone system for bringing some specificity to our lives. We already know it saves us a headache when we’re trying to define a “dark blue background” for a print ad or when we need to nail down the precise coffee-to-cream ratio, and who knows what’s next for it.
So, here’s to you, Pantone Matching System. You don’t always get the thanks you deserve.