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The Pantone Color of 2014 and How Colors are Named

Around the new year, everyone starts to release “…of the year” lists and awards.  Many of these include best of, or worst of lists.  Chicago Printing Companies release best print jobs of the year.  Here in Chicago, Pitchfork Media always releases a “Best Albums of the Year” list alongside a very entertaining “Worst Album Covers of the Year”.

In keeping with the “of the year” tradition, Pantone recently announced the Pantone color of the year: Radiant Orchid! According to Pantone, this pinkish-purple “blooms with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination. It is an expressive, creative and embracing purple—one that draws you in with its beguiling charm. A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great joy, love and health.”

Photo courtesy of Pantone

Photo courtesy of Pantone

The Pantone color of the year always creates a lot of buzz.  But it’s the name that got the local, Chicago podcast How To Do Everything, syndicated by NPR, to think about something many of us overlook in many of the products we use every day.  Specifically: nail polish.

So, to find out how nail polishes get their fancy names, they interviewed, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, the artistic director for OPI, a nail polish producer.  Susie is on a board of six people that are given the task of naming each nail polish that OPI produces.

The transcript of a portion of the interview follows:  

How To Do Everything: So Suzi, how do you come up with these names?

Suzi Weiss-Fischmann: So the way we come up with the names of the colors [is] twice a year we have geographic location themed collections.  So each time we go to a country or a geographic location, and once I’ve created the colors, there are six of us at OPI, six crazy people, and we sit in a room, and I present the shades.  Then we just go crazy with names and we just play on words.

HTDE: How does that work?  Do you hold up the color, like a square of pink and people just shout out names?

SW-F: Yes! Pretty much! It’s a democratic process, so majority rules.

HTDE: So you start with a  location or a geographic region.  Do the names reflect that?

SW-F: Always

HTDE: What would we call a pink from your latest collection?

SW-F: So if they spring collection is Brazil. Brazil is going to obviously going to be very hot next year, you know, the World Cup is there.  So, for example, a hot pink is called “Kiss Me I’m Brazilian”.  There’s always a color that’s named after Susie (that would be me).  So there will be Susie’s Man-Go. Like mango, the fruit, but M-A-N — G-O.  Like “my man went”.

HTDE: Let’s say you hold up a red that’s that you are going to use for this collection, how many names are going to be thrown out before you have it?

SW-F: It could be several.  It could be the first one and everybody loves it.  It usually takes about 8-10 hours to name 12 shades.  In France, we did “you don’t know Jaques”, which is an extremely popular color.  It came from “you don’t know jack”…

We can imagine that it would be a lot of fun to come up with the names for colors, and it seems to matter at least for a product like nail polish.  It really makes you wonder how much of an effect the Pantone color of the year has on overall design trends.  Do designers start using that color as a result of the announcement?  Or could the naming of the Pantone of the year actually reflect greater trends in Design that are already occurring?

We aren’t exactly qualified to make a call on that one, but it definitely gets the wheels turning. For more information about the Pantone color of the year, check out this really awesome video with the Pantone Color Institute, Exec. Director, Leatrice Eiseman.

And for more information about the How to Do Everything Podcast check out their website here.

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