The colorful world of the Pantone team

What's next year's 'it' color? Ask the Pantone Color Institute. Its members travel the world to find out what hues will move product.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)
By Alyssa Abkowitz, reporter

Leatrice Eiseman (standing, second from right), executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, with her color team.
Color swatches
Here's a look at some of the hot colors for Spring/Summer 2010, according to Pantone's most recent fashion report.
Aurora Coming on the heels of Pantone's 2009 color of the year "mimosa yellow," Aurora is a yellow tinted with green that gives off a burst of energy.
Tomato purée This season's classic red can be paired with turquoise, another Pantone hot hue, for a retro look.
Eucalyptus For the ever-practical, Pantone says this hue is cool and classic. To pump it up a bit, throw on some bright shoes and grab a vibrant handbag.
Fortune's Kodachrome legacy
In 20 stunning photos, the glory of Kodachrome comes through in the work of Fortune's distinguished photographers. We present a gallery of our favorites.
What do you think about the $250 relief payment proposed for seniors?
  • It's a good idea
  • It's not enough
  • It's too much

(Fortune Magazine) -- Long before orange made its debut as a hot hue, Leatrice Eiseman spotted it in several unlikely places: on fences and front doors in Italy and Germany, in Morocco's natural dyes, and on monks cloaked in saffron robes. At the time the color wasn't associated with spirituality or trendiness in America, thought Eiseman, but rather with discount stores like Big Lots.

As she began to notice it in multiple places and in different contexts around the world, Eiseman and her team at the Pantone Color Institute -- the forecasting and consulting division of Pantone Inc., which is part of the $261 million company X-Rite (XRIT) -- decided to put it at the top of their 2003 forecast.

Since then, orange has gone mainstream, blanketing such unlikely products as videocameras, KitchenAid blenders, and Ford's new F-150 SVT Raptor, now available in "molten orange."

"Product manufacturers finally understand that color really grabs consumers' attention," says Eiseman, the institute's executive director. "It's a way to entice people."

The Color Institute's parent company, Pantone, invented a numeric system to codify a spectrum of hues for graphic designers and publishers in the 1960s. In the 1980s companies like Elizabeth Arden (RDEN) started to look to Pantone's color array for shades of lipsticks, and Pantone realized that it needed to create a system for other industries. That's when names for colors -- cognac, parsnip, cameo pink, and more -- were added to the numbers. Today there are more than 1,900 Pantone hues.

To find the next color du jour, Eiseman and her team traverse the globe. They frequent trade shows, follow the production of upcoming movies, and read everything from tech magazines to psychological studies.

While the team is scattered across the country (Eiseman is based in Seattle, creative director John DeFrancesco in New York City, and the rest of the team in New Jersey), they're in constant contact either by phone, e-mail, or in-person meetings to discuss their findings.

"Forecasting is a marriage of trend directions," Eiseman says. "It's about how many places I'm seeing a color -- if it's popping up in graphics and products. Not just on the runway."

Once thought of as a mere service for its parent company, the Color Institute now publishes five reports a year that sell for up to $750 per issue. The highly anticipated reports have become a must-read for product designers across numerous industries.

Instead of sticking with a traditional blue -- America's favorite color -- manufacturers of skillets and skis alike look to the institute to guide them on how to give their products a "new" blue, in periwinkle, perhaps, instead of navy.

Fashion designers, of course, play a key role in determining color trends, and the institute relies on their input. The semiannual Pantone fashion color report surveys 50 top designers about what colors they'll be using for the upcoming season. The Pantone team takes the information and calculates the top 10 choices. Hot for spring and summer 2010: tomato pure, aurora (yellow with a tint of green), and turquoise.

Consumer psychology plays an important part in color forecasting too. Take brown, as an example. For years the color connoted images of wood and dirt. That changed in the late 1990s, with food trends like the rise of Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) and the success of the romantic flick Chocolat, says Eiseman. A color that was once seen as dull or unattractive transformed into a shade that became synonymous with high-quality food and good taste.

The state of the economy might have the largest impact on the colors consumers favor. When the market tanks, people often retreat to neutrals, says Eiseman. But lately, instead of ignoring color -- think back to the grunge trend during the downturn of the early 1990s -- people tend to be cautious with big-ticket items but add color through less expensive purchases.

"Color is a way to build up your confidence," Eiseman says. "It makes you feel better." That may be why the institute chose mimosa yellow as its 2009 color of the year; according to Eiseman, it's a hue that carries psychological overtones of change and enlightenment for consumers.

As for next year's color, Eiseman isn't telling. But she did share a few hints as to what will factor into her team's decision. "People are wanting someplace to go, somewhere to retreat to," Eiseman says. "My challenge is to come up with a color that speaks to how we can create a feeling of escape -- to get away from the problems of the everyday world. Even if it's a fantasy." To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
Cisco Systems Inc 47.49 -2.44 -4.89%
General Electric Co 13.00 -0.16 -1.22%
Kraft Heinz Co 27.84 -2.20 -7.32%
Data as of 2:44pm ET
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 32,627.97 -234.33 -0.71%
Nasdaq 13,215.24 99.07 0.76%
S&P 500 3,913.10 -2.36 -0.06%
Treasuries 1.73 0.00 0.12%
Data as of 6:29am ET
More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.