Has there ever been something you’ve been dying to say, but the right moment hasn’t come along? Well, here goes.
“Stop the press!”
Rarely has there been a better time to shout—albeit virtually—these irresistible words. Because there is news, and it comes from the world authority on color for printing: Pantone. As these photographs by James Chororos vividly suggest, Pantone has been hard at work on a new guide for designers and printers. It’s an expansion of the company’s spot-color palette, offering a printed representation you can compare side-by-side with an existing product, making it faster, easier, and cheaper for designers to communicate their desired colors.
Called the Extended Gamut, it offers an accurate representation of umpteen colors without obliging printers to physically mix their ink (or clean it up). According to the company, designers can use this new Extended Gamut range of pre-processed colors to match their original spot colors and turn around their printing work faster and more cheaply.
It’s part of the company’s move to simplify printing and even on-screen rendering—what Pantone GM and senior VP Ron Potesky calls “analog” and “digital” applications—in an era of shorter print runs and other technological shifts. But widening the range of readily available colors also just makes sense. “We asked 1,000 designers what was important to them,” says Potesky, “and 88% want a typical color to look at, either for inspiration or as a physical standard to measure by. If you’re a large consumer brand with a lot of packaging, you care whether or not your brand color looks exactly right on the shelf—because consumers recognize if Coke Red is really Coke Red.”
Potesky says designers regularly turn up on the doorstep of Pantone’s Carlstadt, New Jersey headquarters asking for tours of the facility. “Designers love getting into the guts of Pantone,” he says. “So when we were making this guide, we assumed they’d be excited to see behind the scenes.”
Last spring Chororos followed Pantone as the company moved its staff into the factory of Disc Graphics, a creative packaging printer based on Long Island, New York. The goal was to work with the company’s new eight-color, state-of-the-art Komori press from Japan, “as good or better than any out there,” says Nic Blake, a member of the Disc Graphics manufacturing team that worked on the venture. The companies had previously joined forces on other merchandising projects, but when the request came to collaborate on the Extended Gamut guide, Disc Graphics president Margaret Krumholz said “Yes, yes, yes. Pantone is the bible of color. We were so honored to be considered.”
In preparation for the job, the Disc Graphics/Pantone crack team performed three rounds of testing, running their own version of Extended Gamut “to make sure any printer could replicate those color builders again and again,” says Blake. They did finger-printing tests on 6,000 sheets of paper, tweaking them each time to get consistent color replication from run to run.
Disc Graphics, a 40-year-old specialist that does $50 million in annual sales, is accustomed to working with high flyers in cosmetics, spirits, and pharmaceuticals, so surely this was business as usual, right? Blake laughs nervously. “If we said it wasn’t nerve-wracking… Well, it was.”
Krumholz interjects. “It’s like you’re a pretty good college basketball team and suddenly LeBron James is coming to play against you.”
Chororos’ photos beautifully show the serious business of making color decisions for millions of designers worldwide, on equipment that costs more than the land it sits on. With just the blue, vermilion, yellow, and black you see here, Pantone writes the recipe for 32 million colors.
“When you have Pantone come on board,” says Blake, “they’re going to tell us if our color looks good or bad.”
“This reaffirmed our abilities. But I think they learned as much from us as we did from them.”