Cool little interview on Pantone

What inspires your forecasts?

I look at the world of entertainment, such as upcoming films that might have specific colors attached to them. The art world is important as well. And sometimes two (or more) trends converge, such as the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. The logo and attention-getter for that film is the Mona Lisa—it’s appearing in ads and feature stories. The colors and sensibilities of that piece of art converge with many designers’ thoughts about using more painterly touches in their designs. The best example of how influential films can be, especially in children’s markets, is Shrek. When I first read about this film and heard that the main character would be an acidic yellow-green, that caught my eye. Monsters, Inc. was also a vibrant green. Kids will always follow the color trends of their favorite characters. Yellow-green filtered into every other area of kids’ lives—bedspreads, wall coverings, clothing, notebooks, and even the packaging of Skittles and other foods.

Are there other areas, besides entertainment, that influence people’s color predilections?

Social issues and their emblematic color can create trends. Green is the obvious color as symbolic of preservation of nature and sustainability. The economy can also come into play. When people are concerned about spending money on high-ticket items with longevity, they often want to resort to neutral colors. That does not mean that vibrant colors go away, but it does mean that they have to be used more judiciously, perhaps in accessories as opposed to the bigger-ticket items. Fashion, of course, is always important. The 2005 fall shows featured blues and blue-greens heavily, especially in combination with brown. That has now transitioned into home furnishings.

How do your forecasts affect designers and consumers?

We don’t update the Pantone colors based solely on trends, although that does have something to do with it. But if people feel that lavender is going to be a strong color, we’ll make sure we have a selection of lavenders in the color offerings. It’s not about reinventing the color wheel. It’s about getting the color wheel to evolve and change slightly. That’s really what forecasts are about—how to use colors that resonate. Every designer isn’t going to rush out and do what they saw in my forecast—they don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. But it does help inspire them, or help them to look at a palette and say, Wow, I’d never thought about combining that shade of rose with this shade of blue-green, but I like the way that looks together. Forecasts are simply a guideline; they’re not dogmatic.

How many colors are currently available in the Pantone pantheon?

In the textile system, for example, there are 1,925 colors. Every couple of years, we survey the market and when the designers say they need more white, or yellow, or darker greens, we pay attention to what they want and we introduce new colors to the system. That’s why the number of colors keeps going up—because designers are like greedy kids: There’s never enough color out there and they’re always going to want the nuance of a color that doesn’t exist.

-Fred A. Bernstein

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