In early 1960s, as Lawrence Herbert drove to operate inside a blue Cadillac with cherry red seats, he mulled spanning a problem: How to make a “universal language” of color. Herbert, the dog owner of your Pantone Swatch Card, had just produced a retail display card that helped shoppers choose pantyhose. He needed to hand-mix the subtle beiges of each and every swatch, as it was tough to get the exact shade he wanted from an ink manufacturer. Each company defined colors differently, so when you ordered “wheat” or “taupe” or “cream,” you couldn’t predict what you’d get.
The remedy, he realized, was to create a unified color system by which each shade was expressed as being a number. “If somebody in The Big Apple wanted something printed in Tokyo, they might simply start it and say, ‘Give me Pantone 123,’ ” Herbert says; 123 (a daffodil yellow) would look exactly the same around the world. Herbert made a sample page to indicate how the system worked and sent it to ink makers. 50 years later, he still owns a copy of that page: “I’ve got it right here within my office in Palm Beach.”
From the 1970s, Pantone was making greater than a million dollars per year in licensing fees. “We possessed a consultant who would obtain a committee together and discover, by way of example, what colors are appearing in Milan, what colors are showing up in Paris,” he recalled. “It seems that a majority of designers all think that coffee brown may well be a good color within the same year.”
The Pantone system spread in the advertising world to textiles to food science and possesses been put to some unexpected uses – like defining colour of the Ben & Jerry’s brownie. “I have matched color charts for wine,” Herbert said. “I matched color charts for anemia blood samples and then for walnuts and strawberries and goldfish.”
Now retired, Herbert still needs a proprietary desire for color – in, say, the main difference between delphinium blue (16-4519 TPX) and Maui blue (16-4525 TCX). “God came up with the world in seven days,” he says. “And in the eighth day, he called Pantone to set color with it.”
Lisa Herbert, the daughter of Lawrence Herbert, is Pantone’s v . p . of consumer licensing.
Read more the principle story
The New York Times Magazine
The best of The Latest York Times Magazine shipped to your inbox weekly, including exclusive feature stories, photography, columns and more.
Receive occasional updates and special deals for that New York City Times’s services and products.
Opt out or give us a call anytime
What’s your earliest memory of your respective father’s business? When I was 6, I would personally 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 recently gone into the business of “cool-hunting.” Yes, design-conscious industries would like to know the colors for the next season. So people have started to look for Pantone for this.
Pantone declared emerald green as the color for 2013. How have you think of that forecast? We travel the world and shop the trade events and check out awards shows and what’s coming dexmpky06 the runway. We track the sales of our swatches to designers – so that we know about the rise in popularity of the shades.
What’s by far the most unusual using the Pantone system? Calvin Klein kept a Pantone chip in your kitchen to signal to his chef what color he wanted his coffee to be.