PANTONE Wants You to Chip In
The economic crunch, combined with a growing aversion to the excesses of our disposable culture, is generating a very real aversion to upgrading just about anything. Take a look around. Odds are that you can spot something within sight that you (or the powers that be) have decided to hang on to, which in another era (not that long ago) would have been replaced by now with the latest and greatest. If you're a designer, that something probably includes tools of the trade, both digital and analog.
Take something as essential as Adobe's Creative Suite 4 and the apps of which it's constituted, notably Photoshop. Has there ever been a release that Adobe had to work so hard to convince us to purchase? The Creative Suite ads are everywhere (including the Graphics.com Network), all touting not groovy new features but the efficiencies that upgrading will bring to your workflow. Yes, I upgraded, but not until the very last days of the Spring price break. I hung onto my dusty copy of CS2 that long.
But if Adobe has to knock itself out to convince die-hard users to upgrade, how hard must it now be for others selling products and services to the graphics and design community? I was struck by this recently when coming across Chip In, PANTONE's latest initiative to have us replace our trusty guides and chip sets. I say latest, because PANTONE has always faced the problem of how to generate additional revenue from printers and designers beyond a one-time purchase of their color specification products.
PANTONE insists that the guides should be replaced periodically, since the color of their paper will yellow over time, thus "changing the appearance of colors printed on them." In the years when I owned and operated a small offset printing firm, I simply kept my guide in a drawer when not in use, thus prolonging its lifespan, oh... indefinitely? What does PANTONE think designers do, take their guides to the beach? Besides, the science of paper making has come a long way. If a guide really does yellow enough in a few years of exposure to light to make color specification inaccurate, isn't the better response simply to use a better stock?
You may remember that PANTONE did in fact switch to a brighter guide stock back in 2003, when it created separate versions for coated and uncoated papers. According to PANTONE, six years later many of their customers remain unaware of this, which is a rather startling admission. It then introduced an entirely new system of color matching, dubbed Goe. Hands up everyone using that. What, still clinging to the old system?
If so, the verdict of PANTONE is unequivocal: "If you are still using old products, the colors you specify will not be accurately matched." But how old is old? PANTONE says that guides should be replaced "regularly" but that's not much help. This page is supposed to provide a "check if your guide expired icon" but I couldn't locate it.
Time will tell if this latest initiative to convince customers to replace their guides will motivate them to pull out their wallets or instead get cheeky and leave them on the dashboard of a car in full sunlight. However, hats off for a major effort, which includes rebates, "responsible recycling" of your old guide, and even a donation to a philanthropic arts organization for every guide traded in. The Chip In campaign is a good example of how hard companies are working to get their customers to upgrade. Just don't talk to me about CS5.
Founding editor, Graphics.com