It’s always a relief to leave off tilting at windmills, especially one painted a whiter shade of pale. Starting with the very first of these columns (November 1911 if you’re wondering), I’ve upheld a leery attitude towards the time and resource lavished on ensuring that brand colours are reproduced with metronomic precision.
Not least since the way in which they’re perceived will vary wildly from one set of optics to another. Face it: if everyone has 20/20 vision, how come there’s Specsavers?
On top of that is a borderline violent irritation with some designers in plumping for colours on the basis of the inherent difficulty in creating them in the first place, let alone accurately replicating them into infinity and beyond.
Yet I have been convinced by those who no doubt know better than me that accurate colour management is essential.
So although one consumer’s impression of Coca-Cola red being more like royal purple whereas to another it’s closer to claret, is irrelevant as long as whatever gets printed on the tin, glass, label, shelf ready box et al is exactly the same every time; irrespective of whether it shows up in Bognor Regis or Bora Bora. My Coca- Cola in other words.
Reasonably enough, most brands will insist upon maintaining the visual status quo at all costs; the bulk of which will be dispersed through the supply chain in any case.
But despite the reassurance real or otherwise that colour conformity brings to consumer sensibilities, it’s my bet that given a choice between match-perfect red and fit-for-purpose functionality, most shoppers tripping down the aisle would opt for the latter.
Beauty being skin-deep, the hope is that as it fades it also reveals a more enduring sense of worth. But as in life, beauty and brains in the same package is more often the exception than the rule. Hence in part the planned obsolescence principle, which despite being facile does at least engender churn if not charm; fair enough when things are hunky-dory perhaps, but not when they aren’t nor likely to be again for a very long time.
In building a relationship these days, the honeymoon period, if not over, is the equivalent of a night in a B&B rather than two weeks in Barbados.
Also, we’re more likely to be attracted by a brand’s kick-ass rather than lick-ass capabilities. While pug-ugly isn’t necessarily the new glamour-puss, it’s undeniable that performance increasingly equals pulling-power.
There are technologies now specifically developed to mitigate the more precious excesses of creativity, and they’re all to the good. What would be as useful, if not more so, however, would be for designers to grasp the basic mechanics required to fire a colourful imagination.
Des King is a freelance journalist specialising in packaging. Send your comments to Des to email@example.com