Signazon Spotlight: Lee Eiseman, Pantone - Part 1
This is part 1 of our interview with Pantone’s Lee Eiseman. See here for part 2!

Lee Eiseman, Pantone Color Institute
When Lee Eiseman speaks, the world listens.

And it should come as no surprise. After all, she’s the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and one of the world’s leading color experts.

Back in December, when the world held its breath for Pantone’s announcement of the 2014 Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid, Eiseman was right in the thick of it. She leads the selection committee every year and travels the world analyzing the media, current events, and design to narrow down the Color of the Year.

Pulling from her vast understanding of color psychology and years of experience, Eiseman also works as a private color consultant with businesses, big and small, to identify the right colors for their brand, products, and more. She also teaches and writes about color; her most recent book is titled Pantone: The 20th Century in Color.

Despite such a busy schedule, Eiseman was gracious enough to take the time during the holidays to answer a few our most pressing questions about her favorite colors, color symbolism, and, of course, the Color of the Year.

Radiant Orchid, Pantone Color of the Year 2014
To start off, how did Pantone decide on this year's Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid?

Well, it's a lot of things that go into that decision. Those of us who are colorists have antennae on the top of our heads that quiver looking for color trends. That might sound a bit woo-woo [laughs], but when I travel the world, I look for ascending color trends, colors that are being used in broader ways and broader context than before. You may see it in Asia, you may see it in Europe, you may see it in Latin America, and there's just a little clue here and there. You come back to the States, and you say, "Oh! Somebody's using it in the coffeemaker - that's different." So that's what happens with a color like Radiant Orchid.

We start to look around for a color family. In this case, Radiant Orchid descends from the purple family, which is kind of a magical color that denotes creativity and innovation. Purple is just that kind of a complex, interesting, attracting kind of color.

We always look at the symbolism of what a color means. When we put it out as Color of the Year, it's not just "Oh, isn't that a beautiful color?" There's always the back-story. And the back-story to purple is that it inspires confidence in your creativity, and we're living in a world where that kind of creative innovation is greatly admired. In the world of color, purple is an attention-getter, and it has a meaning. It speaks to people, and we felt that it was time for the purple family to be celebrated. That's why we chose the particular shade called Radiant Orchid.

Radiant Orchid
How’s the feedback been for Radiant Orchid so far?

Absolutely amazing. This is a color that is understood. When I say understood, I mean it's not a weird kind of a color.

Well, it may be weird for some men. They might say, "Well, how in the world do I use a color like Radiant Orchid? It sounds too feminine." But we're already seeing it in sneakers, and on the other hand, an Italian manufacturer of suede loafers who's making a loafer for men in this color. We're seeing in ties, not unexpected, and we’re seeing it in men's striping and plaid. I think that's wonderful, because you can even pair Radiant Orchid with a very subtle gray or taupe, and it just brings it to life.

How have you seen Colors of the Year make their way down to everyday use over the years?

Emerald, Pantone Color of the Year 2013
One of the fun things that I do is to watch how a Color of the Year progresses throughout the year. For last year’s Color of the Year, Emerald Green, I saw it in concept cars. I saw it in high-tech equipment. I saw it in interiors of homes, where people were literally painting a wall or four walls that color. It just blew me away as to the applications of these colors.

Some people might say that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: you put it out there and everyone says, "Oh yeah, we'd better adapt that." But the point is, if you integrate the Color of the Year in some way, because people are reading about it and seeing it, their feeling is if you're adapting that color, then you're on the cutting edge too.

If people are reading that this is the Color of the Year, it tweaks their imagination, and they're going to take a second look at it. Whether they end up buying something in Emerald Green is really not all that important. The thing is, it caught their eye, and it got them to think about it.

It's like buying a new car. You read that purple is the hot color for new cars. You see it in a blurb in a magazine or online, and next time you're out looking for a car, you go into the showroom or you go online to check it out and you look at that purple carand say, "Oh yeah, it's a great color, but I'm not ready for purple.” And you wind up buying the silver car yet again. [laughs] But the point is, it brought you to that website, that place where you might buy that color, and even if you don't buy that color, you wind up buying something. That's the name of the game, isn't it?

I’m sure you get this question a lot, but what’s your favorite color?

Well, interestingly, now it's in the purple family. [laughs] There’s this enormous selection of purples you can use. I do have to say that our Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid, is a color that I do love, but I love it primarily because you can do so many interesting combinations.

That’s what fascinates me the most about color: How can I use this color in a really interesting, different, unusual, unique way to really bring the color out?

Learn more about Radiant Orchid, this year’s Color of the Year, by visiting Pantone's website. For more information about Lee Eiseman please see

Images courtesy of Pantone LLC.  

Page Authored By Rick Debus

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