With the ongoing digitization of design workflows, there has been an increasing need to close the gap between the physical and digital for apparel designers. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these challenges by rapidly replacing the collaborative, light-filled and resourceful design studio with virtual chats at living room tables, making design ideation and communication much more complex. Communicating color intent as part of design is a familiar pain point under normal circumstances, and only gets trickier when workers are remote.
To alleviate these concerns, Pantone LLC, a provider of professional color tools for designers, recently launched Pantone Connect, a digital platform aimed at streamlining design professionals’ color decision-making and communication.
“We tried to add features within this toolset that solve the challenges that designers have, especially now in fashion design or graphic design, you’re being forced to work from home,” Nick Bazarian, senior product manager for Pantone Digital Solutions, told Sourcing Journal. “You still need to work with achievable Pantone colors. We’re basically giving designers the tools to solve a lot of problems they have both physically and digitally.”
In total, Pantone has a range of more than 2,100 colors, most recently adding 294 hues to its library in September.
The new platform provides access to all Pantone colors through a single-user account across mobile, web and the Adobe Creative Cloud applications and includes the Pantone Color Match Card, a credit card-sized target that calibrates a mobile device’s camera to more accurately measure a targeted physical color, which is immediately matched to the closest Pantone color or colors. Designers can then save the color into the designer’s palette workflow and share it with their team.
“The card will actually calibrate the phone for the quality of the camera, as well as the surrounding environment that the designer is working in, like the lighting and any overhead glare,” said Bazarian. “We’ll take those factors out of the equation and give the designer a more accurate color match instead of simply just taking a photograph and picking colors from it. With designers working from home right now, this is much more practical than sending everybody a $500 Pantone guide to work with at home, which probably isn’t very realistic for a lot of brands out there.”
While the recent launch comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pantone actually had sought to integrate many of its capabilities into one suite before the outbreak of the virus. But as designers essentially transitioned to a digital-only workflow in a matter of days, the company saw the opportunity to streamline, especially since most employees no longer had access to physical Pantene color cards.
Additionally, Bazarian noted that it was a luxury for most office environments to have one or two color-measuring devices, so he felt a digital application was necessary to lower the barrier of entry for the average designer to make accurate color measurements.
“You’re asking yourself a different set of questions on screen then you are when you’re working in real life,” said Bazarian. “What we find is designers increasingly are using both—the physical and the digital—as solutions, but both tools have to be able to answer the questions that we have very quickly. How do I arrange colors in a way gives them some meaning, and give them some pop? How do I manage my team around a set of pallets when some of the team is in one office and some of the team is working from home?”
Through July 8, users can still register for a Pantone Connect account for free, with all features and platforms accessible as part of Pantone’s COVID-19 free access offer to designers, announced previously on April 1. All new Pantone color guides also include six months of free access when registered.
The toolset builds upon the company’s 2019 launches of the Pantone Application Program Interface (API) and its Extension for Adobe Creative Cloud, by integrating with new mobile apps for iOS and Android and the Pantone Connect Color Finder web application.
The Pantone Connect mobile app, offered on iOS and Android, saves captured colors into palettes for sharing to social media or designing via the Pantone Connect Extension for Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop.
Within the suite, users can convert colors from non-Pantone systems to Pantone-compatible colors and can access inspiration features such as color extraction from images, color harmonies and trending color palettes.
“For any given color that you pick, this can help you navigate to the nearest colors in nearly any direction in the color space,” Bazarian said. “These are all these little features that end up saving five minutes, fifteen minutes or even an hour at a time, and they speed up the color communication process pretty drastically.”
Pantone Connect’s expanded suite also serves as a newer alternative to Pantone Studio for iOS, and a replacement for some of Pantone’s pre-existing digital solutions, including myPantone for Android, the Pantone X-Ref web app and Pantone Color Manager desktop software.
Pantone plans to continue expanding the platform through 2020 and 2021, with further integration into the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem and other design tool platforms, as well as connection to color reader devices from X-Rite, Pantone and third-party Pantone licensee partners.