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  • Jennifer

Taking Good Care of (Colorful) Things

If you know me, personally, you know that I am a good caretaker of things. Half my clothes are decades old but show little signs of wear; I still accessorize with bracelets that were given to me for my Bat Mitzvah; and I took the above photo with my temperamental iphone 5S. In fact, I recently purchased a new coat to replace the one I bought a decade ago for my first commuter job between Providence and Boston. Most of the down filling is gone but it is otherwise in impeccable condition—so much so that I just gave it to a neighbor so she would have a warmer coat for the winter.

So, it should come as no surprise that until yesterday, I have been using a pristine Pantone Formula Guide from 2004. If you are unfamiliar with Pantone Formula Guides, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacturing of colored paint, fabric, and plastics, to ensure color consistency when producing materials. Most companies and organizations have specific PMS colors that are used in their branding so that their logo prints the same color, whether by an online printer or local professional printer. For a real time example, see page 2 of Target's guidelines where they reference PMS 186 as Target Red.

Color can be a beast for any designer. How something prints on coated versus uncoated paper, by offset versus digital printing, or using a spot color (like PMS 186) versus CMYK (the printing process of creating the same color as a spot color by mixing percentages of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or BlacK inks) can have widely varying results. For nonprofits and smaller businesses, printing CMYK is generally cheaper than purchasing special spot inks for large print jobs. According to Pantone, "CMYK process colors only match PMS 55% of the time." While I do my best to explain this reality to my clients and prepare them for variations, I respect the desire to have color match as perfectly as possible and I know the pain of seeing the same branded color looking like four different hues across four different printed materials printed by four different printers. It happens.

Using the PMS system, at least we can try to have some control over how colors will look when printed or on a mobile device. To that end, I am finally retiring my hardworking Formula Guide and replacing it with a brand new, up-to-date, Color Bridge system that offers CMYK, Hex, and RGB values for each PMS Color. For every spot color, the formula for CMYK breakdowns is indicated along with the Hex code for HTML and the RGB (Red, Green Blue) mix for screens. It is a lot to consider but working with your printer and graphic designer, color consistency can be a manageable process.

To the left is a Pre-Press Print Guide that I designed in 2012 for a class at Rhode Island School of Design. It is somewhat outdated but have a look if you have always wondered what "GIF" stands for or would like a peak into the brain of graphic designer who is preparing a file for print.

Taking excellent care of my clients is an integral part of my job. Like my winter coat, I aim to hold on to them for a good, long time.

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