Quality color for quality brands

POSTED BY Judy Dixon on Jan 11, 2017

The Printing Industries of America’s Color Conference 2016 was held in Scottsdale, AZ last month, and was well attended by creative and production professionals as well as brand owners. I was honored to be included as a keynote speaker on the impressive roster of color experts, as well as designers responsible for impressive brands. The technical prowess of the speakers who manage color across many scenarios sparked a lively debate about methods of extending the color gamut in printing. There were robust case studies demonstrating challenges and victories in managing color across many mediums. And some great research shared about considerate color design for people with color defective vision. This is particularly important for information design.

Throughout my presentation entitled “Quality Color for Quality Brands,” I shared case studies of how our team at Hornall Anderson manages color for the quality brands we have the privilege to work with every day. The brands we work with have multiple touch points, and when we design across these various touch points, our production team keeps a keen eye on the differing specifications to mitigate as many compromises and result in color consistency.

Intuitively, we all know that if a brand chooses and manages their corporate color well, consumers will eventually think of them when they see the color alone, sans logo. For example, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Home Depot — I bet their brand colors ran through your mind when you read their names. :-)

Our teams at HA take this into consideration when we work with brands. For a re-brand, we try not to change without purpose, but to refine and make the color more relevant. Take Alaska Airlines for example. The previous color palette was cold and stark, reminiscent of Alaska, but not of the friendly customer-focused brand that is Alaska Airlines. Their new brand colors are not a huge departure from the old in that they are reminiscent of Alaska (namely the Aurora Borealis), but the new palette is warmer, friendlier and represents the brand personality, as well as the tropical locations they service.

One of the most exciting parts of rebranding Alaska Airlines for me was learning what it takes to paint a plane (aka the Livery). While the protocol for choosing and approving color is similar to print, there is so much more complexity given the engineering and chemistry involved, and then there is Mother Nature! Where we in the industry are used to viewing and approving color in a controlled environment, it is imperative to view the paint swatches in ALL light — bright sunshine as well as shade. While this adds complexity in matching the target, it is key to ensuring the color integrity on the tarmac.  

When designing packaging, our focus is on the challenge of achieving consistent color across print methods and substrates. Our biggest successes in this scenario come from proactive and close collaboration with client, pre-press and printing partners. With early communication, we can keep technical limitations in mind during the design phase serving to mitigate surprises and allow time to solve challenges.

During the conference, was able to attend some other informative and inspirational sessions. I learned a few new things and had the opportunity to get current on various methods of color management, including using Color Exchange Format (CxF) to manage brand colors across substrates and print methods. It is an excellent method for in-house creative teams in building a robust color library. The discussion around extended gamut printing was entertaining as I have experience with the method and could see both sides of the argument. In my opinion, extended gamut printing (7C process) has a huge advantage for any given large house of brands that needs agility in their inventory control as it enables them to gang print many sub-brands on the same press form. From a design perspective, it plays well when your designs call for bold bright colors.  

Over all, The Color Conference was a great event. I enjoyed being able to “geek” out with peers that are immersed in the technical side of printing.


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