The Ironies of “Living Coral”

Spent much time with graphic artists? Then you’re probably familiar with Pantone, the professional color standard for design in advertising, publications, fashion, cosmetics, and a whole range of products, including book cover design. It already popped up a few years ago. Remember Crazy Rich Asians?

Every year,  Pantone’s color trend-watchers proclaim a “color of the year,” and for 2019, it’s Pantone 16-1546, a soft pinky orange called “Living Coral.” Pantone considers it a life-affirming, nurturing shade, never mind the irony that the life-negating, destructive reality of global warming is fast making “living coral” an anachronism.

But let’s nod to the intent here. To Pantone, designers, including book jacket designers, will be gravitating toward this optimistic color. “It’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today,” Laurie Pressman, the Pantone Color Institute’s vice president told the Associated Press.

That all sounds so positive, I thought I’d check it against a couple of my color analysis books.

My Fortune-Telling Book of Colors has a one-word signifier for many colors, and for coral, it’s “wise.” The color in the book that better matches Pantone’s shade is “persimmon,” which signifies “healthy.” Something off there, though it captures the optimism. You like the color? Then flowers that book recommends for you are roses, tulips, dahlias, peonies, and orchids.

Especially helpful to us writers is the advice to wear this color when we want to motivate ourselves and get results.

The closest shade to Pantone 16-1546 in The Secret Lives of Color is actually amaranth, if it were a few shades paler. In another irony, garlands of amaranth (the plant) were used to honor the Greek heroes because their everlasting blossoms suggested immortality. If only that were the case for our real living coral.

Further Reading

“12 Questions to ask when hiring a book cover designer” by Diana Urban on the BookBub Partners blog, 23 January 2019.

Just Your Type

(photo: wikimedia.org)

(photo: wikimedia.org)

Curtis Newbold, “The Visual Communication Guy,” runs a website about topics in good design. He says “it’s as important for (people) to be literate in visual communication these days as it is to know the fundamentals of grammar.”

He’s created a nifty infographic, “18 Rules for Using Text” if you’re intrigued by graphic design, web design, and just generally making the stuff you print out look better. The graphic is also available from his store in poster form, in case you have a bare patch on your office wall.

I look at a lot of websites and can attest to the fact that these rules are violated often. And, while they aren’t rules in the sense of “never do this,” they are certainly rules-of-thumb. Red or yellow type on a black background? No, please. Going crazy with fonts? Amazing how many people still do this. A list like this is a good reminder of these most common mistakes–which are “mistakes” because they discourage readership. Something none of us want to do.

(photo: Vicki Weisfeld)

(photo: Vicki Weisfeld)

Not My Type

comic sans, gravestone

Comic Sans used on a gravestone (photo: upload.wikimedia.org)

Perhaps you’ve missed the graphic design world’s kerfluffle over Comic Sans. I had. It’s just a simple, unembellished, jaunty little typeface, I thought, but perhaps its very unassertiveness, its cheery friendliness make it ripe for assault by the typographical bullies, confident Times New Roman and sleek (but dull) Ariel? Oh, sure, sensitive people wouldn’t use Comic Sans for an eviction notice or a letter to the IRS, but are we to abandon it entirely? Apparently so, according to this infographic from Comic Sans Criminal, which displays some of those questionable uses.

When Pope Benedict XVI retired, the Vatican published a photo album of his papacy, along with his resignation letter—all in Comic Sans. The designers behind the website “Ban Comic Sans” responded, “As all seasoned graphic designers know, this is a desecration of the cardinal rule of design – NEVER use Comic Sans.” Then they asked, “Among all the apocalyptic speculation is this simply further proof that the end is near?” And a NSFW defense.