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[] Colour of the year

- Graphic Design , Interview

»I’m a colourful person«

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute and colour coach. She is also the author of many books on colour, gives seminars to companies and is also responsible for the Pantone Fashion Report. We talked with her about the colour choice for CIs, the influence of colour and about the the Color of the year …


What would you say to a young businessman or woman who wants to choose his/her corporate colour based on personal preference alone?

My advice to a young professional – and I always say this to the attendees at my presentations – would be that one must separate personal likes and dislikes from professional likes and dislikes. Every colour has an inherent meaning and the choice of a corporate colour should not be based on personal emotions but on very pragmatic reasons that will benefit the business or the service.

You not only offer seminars at your Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, you also advise multinational companies on colour choice. What are the most frequent issues you encounter?

I would claim that communication is crucial when it comes to colour. Let’s say you’re a designer in Germany and I’m a manufacturer in Hong Kong, which is a common scenario in the fashion industry. We have to be able to communicate clearly on what colour we have in mind for our dress, for example. We both need a common basis for understanding what the colour will look like. You want this new dress to be eggshell white, but my concept of eggshell white might be very different from yours. That is when Pantone comes into play and makes the means available to reach that common ground through consistent colour codes that everybody understands, whether on paper chips, plastic chips or the computer.


What influence does colour have in the success of a brand or product launch?

Colour is the single most important design element in reflecting mood and style. It is the pivotal element which enables companies to establish a brand identity that can become larger than life. If a company wants my help in developing a product, it’s usually because they want to catch the eye of the consumer or appeal to a particular segment. And as 80 percent of human experience is filtered through our eyes, visual cues are essential to successfully getting a message across. Nothing does that better than the thoughtful use of colour. If done properly companies can create a singular colour identity and thus have the power to quickly differentiate their brand or product from competitors and immediately stand out. Most consumer decision-making is intuitive and emotional, only five percent is rational, so the appropriateness and first impression of colour is critical. In fact, colour is the critical influencer in making product-purchasing decisions since that is the first thing you see, especially in a shopping environment where you may only have three seconds in which to capture the consumer’s attention. But as easy as it sounds, there is no magic bullet or formula in the colour field. You must have a feeling or talent for colour.

How do new technologies impact on the world of colour?

Colour and technology mutually enrich and reinforce each other. Back in history, Apple lost ground in its technology battle with Microsoft, but found new hope in the August 1998 launch of the new iMac which featured an eye-popping array of translucent plastics. The colours underscored the message promoted by a massive media campaign: Macs were for adventurous thinkers rather than computer geeks. The other way around, too, technology has exerted influence on the field of colour. For example, Pantone has developed a mobile measuring device called »Capsure« with which graphic designers or decorators can match any colour within seconds at the press of a button. The colour scanner allows the user to capture colours from all surfaces including small items, patterns, and multi-coloured textures as well as walls and carpets. We see the industry evolving rapidly and I am really looking forward to what technology brings next in the field of colour.


There are always controversy in the creative sector about the Pantone Color of the Year. How is a »Color of the Year« selected?

The selection process is very thoughtful and a lot of consideration is given to the colour choices. To arrive at the selection each year our colour expert team is actively on the lookout for the colour that they see as ascending, the one that seems to be building in importance, and the shade we think has the ability to communicate the colour message that best reflects what is taking place in our culture at a particular moment in time. What we do is try to take the pulse of the public, so to speak. We all travel a lot – those on the committee go to London and Paris and Milan, a lot of the major places where you see ?fashion on the street, and you see evidence of certain colours. Fashion’s definitely a large part of it as it is two years ahead of the present. It’s where trends ori?ginate. But we also have to justify naming a colour by seeing it in other ?places as well: We look at new films coming up. What colours are being used? Is there a new effect being used? Or we look at upcoming cars, because when you talk about technology, you have to look at the finishes on cars because they are light-years ahead in the technology they use to create those colours. We also look at the art world. Is there a collection of art that’s being shown? 


If you were to identify yourself with a colour, which colour would that be? And why?

As you may anticipate I’m a very colourful person. I live in the Northwest of the US near to Seattle. When you come into my house you will discover a very soft golden yellow paint on the wall paired with lots of art. Then again I have a room painted in dark plum, which serves as a dramatic background to a collection of antique evening bags. If I had to choose, then I’d say I am definitely a purple person. But I am rather into a purple-blue, called Pantone’s Deep Periwinkle, as it elicits excitement. I love the energy that putting a little red into the blue generates so that it appears a bit more purple.



This interview was first published in novum 06.16 (n+ Colours).