Esther sent me a link to a great post called Tools of the Trade: Textile Color Standards. Michelle Engel Bencsko, the designer writing the entry, discovers the beauty and ease of industry standards. Rather than verbally attempting to describe fuchsia or whatever, she draws the shade and hue from a reference standard each party has on their respective end. Here’s a quote:
I’m 4 collections into Cloud9 now and it was becoming apparent that I need a steady source for my color standards. For example, I had gone so far as to cut up a perfectly good shirt to show my mill what “Shell” looks like. After struggling for much too long to find the perfect “Pebble” I decided it was time to go back to my roots and hit the pros.
This entry is instructional in two ways. One is direct and practical -how to communicate desired shades with other professionals. Second is indirect, that standards are an incredibly useful tool to facilitate communication. [Standards also apply to your production process; why have the expectation that your partners should do all the heavy lifting and explain everything to you when you have access to the tools to teach yourself?] Michelle continues:
Buying color standards is an investment, but in the scheme of things, it’s not the biggest investment. Now that I have my full range of commonly-used core colors, I feel quite professional-like. I have cut my 4×6 standards in half and put a little header card on them for easy reference to hang on the back of my office door. I did the same with the other half and those will be sent off to the mill. Now when I develop new collections, I can simply refer to colors by name and know that they have the standards waiting at the mill. No more taking the time to scrape up, prepare and mail pieces of fabric swatches… just an email with .pdfs of my artwork and some specifications and we’re off and running.
There is a cost to moving up a level professionally but it’s all the more difficult to justify when it’s hard to define the value of the investment. Being able to talk more precisely without misunderstandings? How do you calculate the value of a conversation? It’s a feeling -mostly relief- not something you can put a price to. Accumulating the bits of ephemera and knowledge is part and parcel the accouterments of your trade. Having these standards are akin to badges, signs of your professionalism manifest. If you’ve ever been in a designer’s office, you likely have no idea what these things are nor the value of them. Once you start to learn about them and acquire them, it changes everything. Then, going to the same designer’s office, you see dollar signs on all those swatch books, charts, and reference books because you know what they cost. And you know the designer takes her/himself very seriously. And we covet, yes we do! It’s amazing how doors will open for you with the right word to the right person.
Her recommendation for color standards was very educational for me. If I had been in the market for something like this, I would have gone with Pantone and not thought another thing about it (although Miracle probably already told me but I’ve since forgotten). She says there’s better options -like SCOTDIC– something I hadn’t given much thought to. Hers is a qualified opinion (everyone is entitled to an opinion but it doesn’t mean they’re equally valid) she says:
I was first introduced to SCOTDIC years ago when I would receive official brand color palettes from major retailers like Target or Walmart or JCPenney. Most major retailers have private label brands- those brands that are exclusive to the retailer ie: Merona, Faded Glory or Stafford respectively. These brands are often outsourced to different vendors (like the one I worked for) and/or are produced in the company’s own sourced mills. If you’re a private label developer, you typically get a style guide which would include a seasonal color palette. These colors would need to be strictly adhered to- with crazy color testing and everything- as these would help unify the brand.