Taming Color's Chaos

She says the need to standardize signature shades may seem obvious, but it wasn't until 1963 that anyone actually tried to do it. Every printing ink company had their own standard book, she says, but there wasn't a common language for designers to speak to printers all around the world.

Herbert is proud of the fact that Pantone, based in Carlstadt, N.J., succeeded in creating a common color language. Her father, Lawrence, started it all, combining his major in chemistry with his love of color.

"Color excites," he says. "Color makes people feel good. I mean, imagine yourself opening up your closet and you're feeling kind of down. The first thing you're going to do is go for that red dress. I want to get out there and do something."

More than 40 years ago, Lawrence Herbert persuaded a small group of American dye makers to use his very specific formulas, identified by number.

They standardized their colors so that everybody could be counted on to get the same red or the same blue.