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How Pantone became the world’s solution to colour chaos.

Updated: May 18, 2021

Pantone is a unanimously trusted word in the design community when it comes to communicating the right colour be it for manufacturing, design, or textiles. I cannot imagine how chaotic it must have been before 1963 until Lawrence Herbert, an American Chemist, introduced the Pantone Matching System; ‘pan’ meaning ‘all’ and ‘tone’ meaning ‘colours.’

So, who is this revolutionist? Herbert had a Bachelor of Arts in biology and chemistry and joined a colour printing company that specialised in colour charts for medical, fashion and cosmetics in 1962 as a “colour matcher”. This temp job where he was repeatedly asked to match colours by clients who were “looking for the right shade” just by the name of the colour alone resulted in him founding Pantone a year later. He developed a system to standardize colour and specified the exact formula for each shade. So, despite changing light, medium, or even perceptions, this formula ensured that the colour was always the same. A simple yet brilliant solution!

Today, a designer can just use the Pantone Matching System (PMS) to convey the Pantone Number to the end-user and the rest ensured, one will get the exact colour on print or web anywhere in the world.

Pantone Colour Institute colour experts scour the globe for new colour influences, from the media industry to fashion, travel destinations, and socioeconomic conditions. New technology, fabrics, textures, social media sites, and even upcoming sporting events that attract global attention can all have an effect.

Then, at the end of each year, a defining colour for the next year is revealed – known as the Colour of the Year. Pantone's Colour of the Year has been influencing items in fashion, home furnishings, printing, and industrial design for more than 20 years.

Pantone colour of the year 2021 is a combination of two independent but complementary colours – PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating.

This pair exemplifies what society is looking for: mutual support and acceptance since they come from different palettes and are usually used to reflect different moods. Ultimate Gray is strong, constant, and neutral, while Illuminating is bright and lively.

“Seeing people reset their minds and their priorities, there appeared to be an understanding that we need each other if we’re going to get through to this other place,” and a pairing of colours underscored that interdependence.” Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Colour Institute.

Fun Facts of Pantone you didn't know!

  • Pantone colours can be trademarked; The famous red of Coca Cola and the pine green of Starbuck’s has been trademarked.

  • Tiffany and Co. creator Charles Lewis Tiffany chose the classic shade of blue for the jewellery’s boxing, which later came to reflect the exclusive brand, due to the success of a turquoise gemstone in the 19th century. The colour is now a registered trademark as well.

  • Pantone announced the creation of Minion Yellow, the first-ever character branded colour, in April of 2015. Pharrell Williams, who composed the music for the Despicable Me movies, came up with the concept.

Pantone's influence in Interior Design and Styling

Interior designers now look to Pantone not just for standardized colours, but for inspirational palettes that inform every area of design. Let’s get inspired!

  • Image 1: Perfectly balanced use of Illuminating and Ultimate Gray by combining it as geometric patterns on the wall and solids in the lighting and furniture.

  • Image 2: A space that blends in the wall and furniture but stands out at the same time. Classy and sassy!

  • Image 3: A pop of the yellow wallpaper makes a small and simple space look vibrant.

  • Image 4: Elevate that regular wall into something functional and aesthetic with illuminating in 3D.

  • Image 5: When everything else is muted, a bright throw and cushions of different prints, textures and sizes can break that monotony.

  • Image 6: A budget-friendly idea to incorporate the 2 colours and accent your wall.

  • Image 1: Style your room using an area rug with large geometric prints.

  • Image 2: Material and colour board to inspire your new buys this year!

  • Image 3: Cushion covers with an array of prints and patterns can liven up any space.

  • Image 4: An inspiration for minimalistic décor for your home.

  • Image 5: Go bold with these fabrics for your sofa, chairs, or curtains.

  • Image 6: Show off this statement piece of lighting in your living or dining room.

Many of us as designers use Pantone for our work almost every day. I discovered several interesting facts about Pantone and the inspiring story behind it and I am sure you will feel the same after reading this post.

I began noticing how coincidently I have purchased multiple products that represent the Pantone Colour of the year, whether it was a piece of furniture, bed sheets or even a phone!

Think about how different colours evoke a unique emotion and influence your mood, style and in turn your life. It is the butterfly effect of colours!


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