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Pantone Universe:A History

How a Little Company in New Jersey Became the Worldwide Authority on Color.

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“Hey, I like your purple sweater!” “Thanks, but I thought it was red.”

Ever argue with a friend over red versus purple? How about bluish green versus greenish blue? You probably know from experience that it can be difficult to agree about colors.

This is what Lawrence Herbert discovered when he started working for Pantone, a small company in Carlstadt, New Jersey, in 1956. Herbert was responsible for making color charts for cosmetics, fashion, and medical companies, and he realized how hard it could be for designers, printers, and ad agencies to communicate about color. Take, for example women’s pantyhose. Each company had its own definition of “beige” and “taupe”. Herbert thought there must be a better way to do things. What if every color had a number and recipe so that instead of asking for “beige,” you could ask for Pantone 453?

In 1962, Herbert bought the company, and in 1963 he introduced the first Pantone Color Matching Chart with 10 colors. Pantone added more and more colors, creating fanning color chip books that sold by the thousands. Today there are 2,310 Pantones used by graphic designers across the globe.

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Thanks to Pantone, a Coca Cola can in the US is the same color red as a Coca Cola can in Mexico or Tokyo. (Pantone 185, in case you were wondering.) The Pantone system has defined everything from the colors of the American flag to the hues of Apple computers.

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Pantone is not just for graphic designers. It has continued evolving to meet the times—expanding into digital design, architecture, and fashion.  

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In 2000, Pantone launched the Color of the Year—Every year, Pantone selects a color to capture the pulse of the coming year. This year, we were lucky enough to get two: a dreamy mix of Rose Quartz and Serenity.

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The reach of Pantone is far. It has been used for everything from Ben & Jerry’s brownies to goldfish to blood samples. Legend has it that Calvin Klein kept a Pantone chip in his kitchen so his chef could tell exactly what color he wanted his coffee. Sephora has used Pantone to help customers find makeup to match their skin tone. And Pantone has partnered with Hollywood to bring the world Minion Yellow.

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It seems the global Pantone craze is only spreading. Designers sip coffee out of Pantone mugs or carry Pantone iPhone cases. Hip art students have taken to sticking Pantone chips in their graduation caps. There is now a Pantone-themed hotel in Brussels and a Pantone cafe in Monaco where you can order color-coded food.

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And now you can get your Pantone fix on Fab! We’re happy to announce the Fab-exclusive launch of a new collection of Pantone-hued bags from Redland.

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Get your own piece of the Pantone pie.

–Katie Fowley

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