Q&A with Laurie Pressman, VP of Pantone Color Institute
Over the past few years, design has increasingly becoming a topic of mass discourse. As consumers come to now expect Apple-esque precision in the design of their products and services, design as a concept is being appreciated and scrutinized on a much wider scale. It is impossible to discuss design without referencing Pantone and of course its “Color of the Year,” as what once was a tool used by printers and manufacturers is now a name that appears in the local Sephora as a make-up shade or a conversation topic debated by aesthetic connoisseur of all types. We celebrate the announcement of 2018’s Color of the Year (It’s Ultra Violet!) with this edition of our Q&A where we speak with Laurie Pressman, VP of Pantone Color Institute to understand the evolving nature of design in culture and what role a company like Pantone plays in it.
1. Design, as concept/practice/expertise, continues to enter mass conversation and cultural and business activity. What are your thoughts on this?
Laurie: As design and design thinking moves to the forefront of the conversation, the symbiotic nature between color thinking and design continues to strengthen. We are living in an increasingly visual society, one where consumers have become more confident to visually self- express. At the same time, the ability to stand out and distinguish oneself and one’s brand has become that much more challenging.
From Instagram and Snapchat to Tumbler, Twitter and Pinterest – not to mention blogs, print, TV, there is a treasure trove of destinations from which we can not only indulge and satisfy what seems to be an insatiable desire for new design and color inspiration, but one where each and every one of us can contribute as well.
From a color and design perspective, I love to see design and the appreciation of the concept/practice/expertise of design continuing to be a part of mass conversation, cultural and business activity. The visionary aspect of creativity and design is what drives us forward. It is what points us toward the future. Not only from an aesthetic perspective but also from a technological innovation standpoint in terms of new materials and processes and just new ways of thinking and doing things.
2. As such, what role does Pantone play in this current landscape?
Laurie: Pantone’s role is to help educate about the role of color in design. With approximately 80% of human experience filtered through the eyes, visual cues are vital in getting a message across. Color creates associations and acts as a visual identifier. Color is the most powerful communication tool, even more important than shape or explanatory words in getting a message across.
Each color contains its own unique message and meaning and has the ability to immediately broadcast who we are and the image we are looking to convey. From infancy through adulthood the colors in our environment affect or express our deepest impulses although this is not always readily verbalized or even consciously understood. In fact, most of our reactions to the universal yet silent language of color operate outside of our conscious awareness. From a cultural perspective, color reflects and communicates what is taking place in our culture at a particular moment in time; perceptions of color can remain fairly constant, change considerably or simply evolve. Because of the fluidity of consumer color perception, we conduct ongoing consumer color preference studies at the Pantone Color Institute to ensure our color information is current and relevant.
3. Last year, Pantone selected ‘Rose Quartz’ as one of the two colors of the year. As we all know, it was quickly renamed (albeit unofficially) ‘Millennial Pink’ and is now everywhere. Which came first — your crowning of the color and it appearing everywhere or your noticing of how prominent a role the color was playing in the world?
Laurie: The PANTONE Color of the Year selection process is very thoughtful and a lot of consideration is given to our color choices. It is not a prediction but rather a report on what we are seeing and why this is happening right here, right now. Keeping in mind that color is a language that reflects the global mood, the color we select to be our PANTONE Color of the Year is symbolic; a color that can communicate out the color message that best reflects what is happening in our global culture at a specific moment in time; a color we see crossing all areas of design that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude; a color that will reflect what people are looking for, what they feel they need that color can help answer. With color and context so intertwined, there are strong reasons why a color family or individual colors come into prominence when it does, and for the most part the popularity of a color reflects the age that we are living in.
With the selection of the combination or fusion of PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity and PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz, we expressed the need for harmony in a chaotic world, reflecting a desire for balance and well-being as an antidote to the stresses of modern life, as well as the societal shift and fluid nature surrounding gender and identity.
4. What role does color play in the world of marketing and branding?
Laurie: Color plays an outsize role in the world of marketing and branding. Specifically to branding, color is the first thing which people see and connect to so color choice is inextricably linked to consumer perception/brand visual identity and is a great way to transcend language barriers in our global world.
The marriage of color and design in packaging and marketing also plays a critical role in consumer engagement as it can bring cohesion or not. This includes the integration of color into design as well as the backdrop of the color story to the message that is being communicated. When product, package and message come together in such a way so as to effectively and seemingly effortlessly deliver the brand vision, it is pure magic, one whose beauty can be described as positively exquisite.
5. What role does technology play at Pantone and how do you see Pantone’s activity present in technological advancements in recent years?
Laurie: Technology plays a big role at Pantone and there are many areas in which we are working. From our Pantone Studio app to help clients select color for design and PANTONELIVE which is a process that ensures color control across materials from the beginning of the design process through to production as well as something new we are working on which addresses color appearance throughout a wide range of material formats.
However, with that said, the importance of a visual standard cannot be underestimated. The gamut of color onscreen is different than what we see and can be achieved in the physical world. It is the combination of the efficiency and scientific accuracy which technology has brought in combination with the physical PANTONE color standard that is the foundation for color success.
6. You addressed the importance of color in the digital world in a LinkedIn article last year. How do you feel the migration of activity to online has affected design in general?
Laurie: The migration of activity moving online has changed our approach to design in that it enables us to create possibilities and see virtual results more quickly. I don’t see moving online as a replacement to tactility, materiality and craft but instead as an enhancement. We do not live in a computer screen and what is being created is not flat but instead three-dimensional. From ergonomics and touch to real life physical appearance, I feel what takes place in the physical world is very important to design and represents skill sets and processes which cannot afford to be lost. What may appear well and useful on screen may not play itself out as well in the physical world so in that sense I see online design as a way to move things through more quickly but not as a replacement for materiality.