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Pantone, The World's Standard for Colour

If you have ever overheard designers sitting at the table, the chances of hearing the word "Pantone" is close to 100%. But what is Pantone?

If you picture the colour purple in your head, how would you describe that to a painter, architect or designer? There are thousands of shades of 'purple' ranging from 'Mauve' to 'English Violet'. Simply saying "purple" doesn't explain what specific colour you are looking for.

Before Pantone, each printer would have their own idea of what purple is. Some would understand purple to be lighter or darker, some would add more blue or red. This would create quite the problem as one client looking to print from different places would end up receiving numerous different shades of the 'same colour' throughout their products.

Pantone fan guide

Created in 1963, Pantone was the first colour matching system developed by Lawrence Herbert to ensure consistency throughout the colour world. This system gave a 'Pantone number' to each colour within their range to allow people to pick a specific colour and give the corresponding number to any printer they wanted to use. This was a revolution and is why Pantone is now considered to be the world's authority for colour. After years of development, Pantone now offers over 15,000 colours throughout a range of different books.

Today, more than 10 million designers and producers use Pantone all across the world to complete their creative projects. Client meetings have become a whole lot easier as the designer and client can both agree on the use of a specific colour without any miscommunication or missing details. Both parties can be completely confident in the selection of said Pantone as the colour will not change.

mcdonalds motorbike

Take McDonald's for example, before Pantone, their iconic yellow and red shades would be inaccurate depending on who was printing their products. If you visited their stores throughout the world, each logo would use different shades and their packaging could range immensely.

But thanks to Pantone, whether you are in the UK, Italy or South Korea you can count on the colours being exactly the same, ensuring that the brand stays consistent and recognisable to the masses.

Like many other companies, McDonald's have trademarked the Pantone colours that they use, making sure that no one else in their industry can use those colours in a similar way. This goes to show that colour is an extremely important part of branding, and of identity as a whole.

Many other companies and brands such as Barbie, Pink Panther, Coca Cola, Cadbury and IKEA have went through the same process to trademark the colours they use, as said colour is the whole brand identity. Research says that colour association increased brand recognition by as much as 80%. If Barbie started using a different shade of pink, the world would instantly notice as this colour has been associated with the brand for so long that even just seeing the colour will remind you of the company.

Pink Panther is one of many brands to hire Pantone to create their own special colour from scratch in order to stand out from the crowd. As Pantone is the universal language of colour, who else would be better suited to create a colour for your brand?

pantone swatches

Pantone uses 2 colour systems to ensure customers in various industries can use the products in the most advantageous way. Both systems have been developed with the specific industries in mind as they will use different colours more often. For example, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is created for graphic, print and packaging designers and features brighter colours that stand out from each other. Where as the Fashion, Home and Interiors system (FHI) uses more neutral colours, using white and black more often in their palettes.

Their colours also come in various digital and physical forms. For FHI there are cotton swatches that help those within the fashion and interior design industries to see the colours in action. These cotton swatches come in large binders to house the plethora of colours on offer.

The most famously known form are the fan guides. These usually hold smaller swatches of each colour within their categories and are displayed in groups of 7 within the same shade range. There are numerous 'Fan Guides' for both FHI and PMS ranging from metallics to skintones to pastels & neons. Fan Guides can also display other colour equivilents in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) & RGB (Red, Green and Blue) to make it easier to transfer to other colour modes.

These guides can come in 3 finishing variations, coated, uncoated and matte, as the same colour can look extremely different depending on the finish of the paper that its on.

The PMS system also comes in plastic swatches to assist in the development of "plastic products, including toys, consumer electronics, home furnishings, appliances, accessories, and more". These swatches come in carousels that can be displayed and rotated for easy use.

pantone card

Pantone have also developed an app named Pantone Connect to allow for easy use and access to the available array of colours. This app also works with the Pantone Colour Match Card, which not surprisingly matches colours in real life to the Pantone system. If you are walking down the street and see a colour that catches your eye, you can use the card to scan the colour and the app will provide you with the closest Pantone equivalent.

For over 20 years, Pantone has selected a 'Pantone colour of the year' a widely anticipated selection from the Pantone experts. They research the current trends of the design and fashion industries along with the current social and economical climates to create a colour that reflects the state of the world at that time.

This years colour is Viva Magenta, Pantone describes it as the following:


"Pantone’s Color of The Year, Viva Magenta 18-750, vibrates with vim and vigor. It is a shade rooted in nature descending from the red family and expressive of a new signal of strength. Viva Magenta is brave and fearless, a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration, writing a new narrative."

Examples from previous years:


2022 - 17-3938 Very Peri


2020 - 19-4052 Classic Blue


2018 - 18-3838 Ultra Violet

Many designers opt to use the 'colour of the year' within their creative endevours as a way to celebrate that specific year along with Pantone's selection. It gives designers inspiration to use a colour that may be out of their comfort zone and experiment with something unique and contemporary. As a graphic designer myself, I thoroughly enjoy the unveiling of the new colour of the year as it acts as a celebration of the world. These colours are a way to identify the year that they represent and develop deliverables to honour the present.

Pantone has grown exponentially throughout the years and has changed the world of colour for the better. Their colour systems are utilized throughout the world and won't be going anywhere, anytime soon. The creative industries owe a lot to Pantone for making their daily activities that much easier. I'm sure Pantone has much more up their sleeve for the future and are developing more greatness as we speak, and its not too long until 2024's colour of the year either!

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