Via: The New York Times:
In the early 1960s, as Lawrence Herbert drove to work in a blue Cadillac with cherry red seats, he mulled over a problem: How to create a “universal language” of color. Herbert, the owner of the Pantone printing company, had just produced a retail display card that helped shoppers choose pantyhose. He had to hand-mix the subtle beiges of each swatch, because it was so difficult to buy the exact shade he wanted from an ink manufacturer. Each company defined colors differently, and when you ordered “wheat” or “taupe” or “cream,” you couldn’t predict what you’d get.
The solution, he realized, was to create a unified color system in which each shade was expressed as a number. “If somebody in New York wanted something printed in Tokyo, they would simply open up the book and say, ‘Give me Pantone 123,’ ” Herbert says; 123 (a daffodil yellow) would look exactly the same the world over….
[click through for full piece at nytimes.com]