In early 1960s, as Lawrence Herbert drove to operate in the blue Cadillac with cherry red seats, he mulled spanning a problem: How to create a “universal language” of color. Herbert, the property owner from the Pantone Swatch Card, had just produced a retail display card that helped shoppers choose pantyhose. He was required to hand-mix the subtle beiges of each swatch, because it was tough to get the exact shade he wanted from an ink manufacturer. Each company defined colors differently, and once you ordered “wheat” or “taupe” or “cream,” you couldn’t predict what you’d get.
The perfect solution, he realized, was to make a unified color system by which each shade was expressed as being a number. “If somebody in New York City wanted something printed in Tokyo, they would simply open up it and say, ‘Give me Pantone 123,’ ” Herbert says; 123 (a daffodil yellow) would look the identical all over the world. Herbert developed a sample page to exhibit the way the system worked and sent it to ink makers. 50 years later, he still owns a duplicate of the page: “I’ve got it here inside my office in Palm Beach.”
Through the 1970s, Pantone was making greater than a million dollars each year in licensing fees. “We possessed a consultant who would get a committee together and learn, for instance, what colors are turning up in Milan, what colors are turning up in Paris,” he recalled. “It seems that many designers all decide that coffee brown generally is a good color in the same year.”
The Pantone system spread in the advertising world to textiles to food science and contains been put to many unexpected uses – like defining the color of any Ben & Jerry’s brownie. “I have matched color charts for wine,” Herbert said. “I matched color charts for anemia blood samples and also for walnuts and strawberries and goldfish.”
Now retired, Herbert still has a proprietary fascination with color – in, say, the difference between delphinium blue (16-4519 TPX) and Maui blue (16-4525 TCX). “God came up with world in a week,” he says. “And in the eighth day, he called Pantone to place color with it.”
Lisa Herbert, the daughter of Lawrence Herbert, is Pantone’s vice president of consumer licensing.
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What’s your earliest memory of your respective father’s business? As I was 6, I would check out the office with my father and fiddle with piles of cosmetics. My father was matching colors for clients like Revlon and Max Factor.
Pantone has gone in to the business of “cool-hunting.” Yes, design-conscious industries would like to know the shades for the next season. So people have started to look for Pantone for this.
Pantone declared emerald green as being the color for 2013. How did you come up with that forecast? We travel the entire world and shop the trade shows and check out awards shows and what’s coming dexmpky06 the runway. We also track the sales of our swatches to designers – so we know of the rise in popularity of the colors.
What’s the most unusual utilization of the Pantone system? Calvin Klein kept a Pantone chip with the cooking to signal to his chef what color he wanted his coffee being.