Pantone’s Got Big Plans for Physical and Digital Integration in 2018

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 02/19/2018 | 4 Minute Read

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As the digital age affects how we connect with others, the way we receive information, and our goldfish-like attention spans, immediacy is of the utmost importance for brands. And in the world of design, this is quite a big ask. It’s possible to go back and forth with colleagues and come up with something perfect on the screen, but this can still look glaringly different in real life.

So how can design and production merge?

“Packaging has changed in the last twenty years. Everything used to look the same,” mentioned Adrián Fernández, Vice President and General Manager at Pantone. “What used to be a simple decision now has so much variability.”

Just think of all the new materials available now that didn’t exist even a decade ago: COLORFOURM, more sustainable alternatives to plastic, and yes, even pineapple. The options for different materials or the small yet significant variations in films make a significant impact on what the final physical product will look like.

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One of the first discussions around a new design is always: what colors will we use? “Everybody starts with a Pantone book,” Adrián said, “but if you print yellow on recycled board, that yellow is not yellow anymore. We need someone to tell people, ‘That’s not what you’re going to get.’”

And this is where Pantone has really stepped up their game on two different platforms: PantoneLIVE and Pantone Simulator Prints.

PantoneLIVE is a plug-in to Adobe which allows designers to view what their selected color will look like in 28 of the top packaging conditions. So whether it’s a corrugated box or a recyclable folding carton, it’s possible to see the physical representation of how different a red will look when you print it. The Pantone Simulator Prints can be ordered on-demand for any color, so designers can select the hue and material they want to see in person before production starts. "It's not perfect, but it's very close," admitted Adrián, recognizing the challenges in getting a color to look consistent across a variety of mediums. Still, the prints give creatives a chance to head into the process far more sure of their decisions from the start.

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Adrián emphasized they view PantoneLIVE and Pantone Simulator Prints as platforms, not products. “We will continue to add to the digital library,” he said. “We want to expand it based on designers’ needs.”

This designer-centric approach is one of Pantone’s biggest goals going into 2018. The designer’s work hinges on many outside factors and influences during the execution of a new product, so Pantone makes a point to engage with people throughout the whole cycle—from ideation to the back-end. “We visit everyone in the supply chain—ink suppliers, designers, and brands,” Adrián explained. “We ask what is working and what is not. And we ask: are we going in the right direction?

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“When I worked at X-Rite, all my work was focused on print and packaging. I was working in the back-end,” he added. “Now we are bringing a unique view on how we connect the Pantone offering at the front-end with the challenges and needs of the supply chain.”

These platforms improve two vital parts of design in the digital age.

The first is speed—neither designers nor brands want to wait two or three weeks to see how something will look in person. Eliminating this bump in the road increases how quickly projects can come to completion.

The second is consistency throughout mediums. “Whatever I’m seeing on the screen, on plastics, on a label—whatever it is,” Adrián said, “it needs to look the same.”

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In 2018, Pantone plans to build upon these platforms and will rely heavily on designer requests and feedback. For what we can see in the future, he couldn’t disclose too much—but Adrián did say everything will have physical and digital integration.

Whatever Pantone brings us this year, it’s sure to further streamline the design process and allow brands to respond to the ever-changing needs and desires of their consumers.

“It’s all about eliminating designer pain or rework,” Adrian said.

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