This, as you can see, is Pantone’s Color of the Year, starting in five days, and let me be probably not the first to say: ick.
Many years ago, I read about the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver that clerks were not supposed to comment on the titles their customers were purchasing, good or bad. Because even if you complimented someone’s choice(s), if you didn’t say the same about the next customer in line, they might feel they were not making approved choices. “No bad books,” as it were — even though good readers know bad books abound.
I am in a color business, and I like to think (although I have just shown I haven’t) I learned early on the folly of commenting on color selection. Just because I can’t stand a color doesn’t mean the next person won’t embrace it, heartily.
Pat had a long-time customer whose name really is escaping me now. It’s a Christian-based adventure camp, and they used to buy a lot of shirts from Pat’s Screen Printing. We dealt with a very nice man named Ken, who appeared, many years ago, to have been let go, and while the association with the camp continued a bit past Ken’s tenure, we were eventually let go in Ken’s wake.
But Ken was a nice fellow, and easy to work with, which was good, because back then I barely knew what I was doing. In an early year he stopped in for his annual pre-season check-in, and he asked if there were any new colors. I believe I said something like, “Nothing good,” as I showed him the handful of new colors from Hanes, and just as I highlighted my least favorite, he said, “Well, that’s a nice color.”
It was a momentary incident, and I’m not even sure Ken heard me disparaging the same color he was admiring, but it did make me realize that I, like Tattered Cover clerks, really should not inject my opinion into the discussion. And so I try not to.
Except: ick on the Pantone choice.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what gives Pantone the right to be telling us what color is “in”? Good question. The answer is: If you work in a color industry, you answer to Pantone.
Pantone, for a price (although it’s actually pretty reasonable), provides consistency in color. Especially in this age of computers, the color I see on my monitor may not be the same color you see on yours. (Although we should be close enough to agree that Living Coral is a color best relegated to under the sea.)
So, if we are talking to a graphic designer in Crested Butte who has a very specific color in mind, she can send Ben (our graphic designer) the Pantone number for that specific color, and it comes with a little color recipe so that we can match what she has in mind without her having to physically come in with a swatch.
Screen printers, sign makers, painters, artists, photographers — we can all speak the language of Pantone and reach agreement. Except maybe on the concept of what makes a “good” color. Pantone’s annual choices would never make my top 10: one year they chose a drab brown, and once it was one of those sickly yellow-green not-really-avocado-but-it-would-have-been-right-at-home-in-our-’70s-living-room.
Here is the best use of Pantone I’ve ever seen: Humanae. Brazilian photographer Angelica Dass put people, one at a time, in front of a white screen and took their photos from the collarbones up. Then she matched their skin tone to a Pantone color and made it the background. I believe she has found 4,000 different skin tones.
This is one of the most beautiful art projects I’ve ever seen, and it should be a seminal work in how we view “race.” Because, well, 4,000 different skin tones and counting.
I am afraid, dear readers — although perhaps you will rejoice — that I am going to have to cut this short, possibly to be continued to tomorrow. I have veered close to the political, and what I really meant to do was regale you with the names of colors. But whether I move on to the discussion of the man I saw this morning on CBS getting booted out of the Double Tree hotel he had checked into, because he was talking on his phone in the lobby while black, or how I may be moving into a “French Toast” house, I am running spectacularly late this morning (slept through my blog time again), and I still have many household chores before I head to work, where I should be heading right now.
So I am off, but then, you already knew that.