The Story of Pantone
Curating the world's colours.
Pantone Inc. is a US-based company that is best known for its Pantone Matching System, a specialist colour space that has been used in a wide range of industries, primarily, however, in printing. This system is also often used in the manufacture of coloured fabric, plastics and paints. Pantone was a simple colour coding system when it first launched, but it has now grown into more than simply the language of colour for designers - it’s become a global design force. Its amazing simple concept has become incredibly successful.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pantone was actually a printing company, which specialised in colour charts for the beauty, fashion and healthcare industries. At the end of the 1950s, Lawrence Herbert came on board the company and he noticed how complicated it was for printers, designers and marketers to identify the exact colours they needed from their basic name along. Because of this, reprints were common as mistakes would happen regularly, this was what made Herbert believe they could do better.
In 1962, he purchased Pantone and created the first Pantone Matching System guide in 1963 which included 10 colours and was designed to reduce the amount of variables that came with printing. By creating a numeric language that could be coded effectively into printers, it meant that any system anywhere in the world could accurately produce a colour.
With no colour coding system for colour shades, it was a nightmare for brands and the printing industry to get the colours in their products right. Back then, when you walked into a supermarket it wasn’t uncommon to see a shelf full of the same product and notice that the boxes were slightly different colours. They might have all been red but none of them were the right tone. Pantone changed that - whether in New York, London or Australia, a product's packaging can be identical in colour.
Of course, Pantone’s success isn’t just about the Pantone Matching System, it’s also about everything else that comes with it. Since 1963, it has grown into a global design force which is partially due to the system's enhanced marketing efforts. These include the Pantone Colour of the Year, the Pantone Colour Institute, the Pantone Hotel, the Pantone Cafés, Pantone accessories like mugs, lipsticks, keyrings, keyboards, and of course, the movie tie-ins. When Despicable Me came out and the Minions took the world by storm, Pantone introduced ‘Minion Yellow’.
Although Pantone was not the very first colour standards system, it is the most well-known and most widely used. It's made communication and product design possible on a global scale and has much more to do with your daily life than you may realise.