Pantone, how the world authority on color became a pop culture icon ...

ANNE QUITO, QUARTZ:

"Colors are tricky. If you’ve ever brought home a can of paint that you thought was taupe in the store but your partner points out looks “kinda pink” on the wall, you know how frustrating—and unreliable—color perception can be.

"Color systems like Japan’s TOYO Color Finder or Germany’s HKS Guide help professionals define color by name or number, instead of eyeballing it. But perhaps most universal of all color systems is Pantone—the lingua franca of color.

"Sound familiar? Unless you work in design, chances are your first encounter with the mythic New Jersey-based color standards company was via a color-coded mug, iPhone case or in a Sephora makeup counter. In recent years, the design of Pantone’s color chips have become a graphic trope: always a plain band of color with a white bar and some words and black numbers in Helvetica on the bottom.

"This chip design is strictly technical, lifted from the layout of a tool used by designers to specify and standardize color when communicating with printers and fabric dyers. So how did it find its way onto mugs, home goods, hospital scrubs, nail polish and even boxer briefs?"

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