Colour is an intrinsic part of human expression. From the vibrant tapestries of ancient civilisations to the digital designs of today, our world has been painted in a myriad of hues. But how do we standardise and communicate these colours across different mediums and industries? Enter Pantone, a name synonymous with colour precision. Let’s delve into the story of its founders and how the Pantone system revolutionised the world of design.
A Brief History
The seeds of the Pantone system were sown in the 1950s, in a small company led by Lawrence Herbert, who would become the pivotal figure in the story of Pantone. Originally a part-time employee at this printing company, Herbert noticed the inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the colour reproduction process. Recognising the potential for improvement, he bought the company in 1962 and began his journey to transform the world of colour.
The Birth of the Pantone Matching System (PMS)
The central challenge in the printing industry was the inconsistency in colour reproduction. Different printers would produce varying shades for what was ostensibly the same colour. Herbert’s genius lay in creating a standardised colour matching system, which was a universal language of sorts for colours.
The Pantone Matching System (PMS) was innovative because it presented each colour as a unique formula. Each shade had its unique code, allowing for consistent reproduction across different platforms.
Impact on the Design Industry
The introduction of PMS was revolutionary. It provided industries, from fashion to graphics to paint manufacturers, with a consistent and reliable method to communicate and reproduce colours. Whether a designer was in New York or Tokyo, referencing a Pantone number ensured they were speaking the same colour language.
Beyond the Matching System
Pantone’s influence didn’t stop at the PMS. They branched out into other industries, providing colour standards for textiles, plastics, and digital media. Their annual ‘Color of the Year’ announcement has become a significant trendsetter, influencing product development and purchasing decisions in various sectors.
The Legacy of Lawrence Herbert
Herbert’s vision and determination laid the foundation for Pantone’s global success. By identifying a problem and seeking a comprehensive solution, he changed the landscape of design and colour communication. His belief in the importance of colour consistency and his dedication to achieving it remains Pantone’s guiding principle.
The Pantone system, rooted in a desire for precision and consistency, is a testament to the importance of colour in our world. It highlights how even seemingly simple concepts, like shades of colour, require intricate systems to ensure their universal understanding. Today, as designers across the globe reference their Pantone swatches, we’re reminded of the lasting legacy of Lawrence Herbert and his revolutionary vision for the world of colour.