Color Intelligence - Pantone Partners: Color Palettes that Pop Q&A Series

Pantone Partners: Color Palettes that Pop Q&A Series


Designing with Pantone colors should be easy, fun, and intuitive. While everyone has his or her own methods and processes when it comes to selecting colors for their designs, it’s important to remember that color influences 50-85% of purchase decisions. Leveraging the psychological messages and meanings of color to successfully connect and communicate your brand story is critical. Nowhere is this more crucial than when designing packaging—it’s the most tangible representation of your brand or product, and a necessary touchpoint for impactful storytelling.

To explore the role of color in developing captivating packaging, Pantone is tapping the expertise of some very successful brands and design agencies. We are asking them to share their strategies and processes for palette building, as well as how, when, and why they incorporate color in their designs.

Gerald Yarborough. Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon

Our first installation starts with Gerald Yarborough, Global Creative Group Art Director for Viacom | Nickelodeon Consumer Products. Gerald oversees the development of most softline and hardline products, masterfully guiding retail direction and ensuring all merchandise properly reflects the brand DNA. His tenure at Nickelodeon has built him into a seasoned leader and an award-winning creative executive with extensive experience in the kids’ entertainment industry. Over the years, Gerald’s collaborations with countless creative professionals across numerous brands and businesses have honed his expertise in directing world-class consumer products and highly successful licensed programs.

Pantone: Do you have a typical “rule of thumb” you follow when concepting your color palettes?

Gerald Yarborough (GY):

I always start with two things for each project: age demographics and good old color theory. Color subconsciously elicits emotions; for example, people see blue and feel calm, while orange evokes happiness. I use color psychology to dial up the emotional attachment to our brands and products, in tandem with strong consideration of our brand DNA and creative strategy.

Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon.

Licensee Bed-Map CADs for Market Showroom

Q: What is your palette development strategy?


Let’s take SpongeBob SquarePants, for example, as he’s one of my favorite characters and is also currently celebrating his 20th anniversary! SpongeBob has a set color palette that defines him, but for hard and soft lines, we need to marry his artwork with home décor trends while also considering our target market. I start by reviewing complementary colors, as well as some that “pop” and feel relevant to the trends we’re seeing. Naturally, since he lives in a pineapple under the sea, we also tend to steer toward nautical palettes and those suitable for toddlers and kids. Turquoise and ultramarines are good bases to consider, especially since they’re more gender neutral.

Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon.

High-end fashion trends reimagined through a licensed lens

Q: Who is involved in your process and why?


I have the luxury or working with an extensive 3D department for all my molded hard goods and an accomplished illustration team for character art assets. My world of product development often bridges the two very different categories and color palettes. In the home category, 3D hard goods items are sometimes packaged with textile soft goods that share the same characters and colors, so for consistency I may forego the 3D color palette for a more cohesive limited color palette to ensure everything works together harmoniously on shelf at retail.

Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon.

Example of Nautical color palette from style guides

Q: What makes a good color palette and how do you validate it?


A good color palette stands the test of time and can be remixed over and over again for any age, demographic, and product category. One of our last steps before finalizing a palette is to first check that the colors are certain to show up properly under different lights. We pull out our Pantone Chips and lay them next to everything under the right lighting, as we want to make sure the hue of the bedding looks like the lamps, like the bank, like the toys, etc., and then decide on any adjustments. We want to try to be as close as possible with the products in a store set so that we avoid someone walking through a store and saying, “Hey, that item looks off because I know what color it should be.”

Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon.

Golden Pineapple inspired bedding

Q: What is the weirdest thing that’s inspired a color palette for you or your team?


A golden pineapple from Target. I know this sounds random, but through our constant process of “comp shopping”, we know the pineapple trend has been around for some time, and statistically, one in every four households owns a golden pineapple. They are literally everywhere! Lucky for us, this trend bodes well with SpongeBob and since he’s a golden yellow color, his palette can easily adopt a metallic gold—especially on a pineapple. We’ve also noticed how designs are instantly elevated to a more high-end status when gold is added. Some retailers are willing to spend more on products with that extra design aesthetic because it just feels more expensive.

Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon.

Gerald’s product development tools, cross-referencing colors with style guide callouts.

Pantone partners: color palettes that pop q&a series with Nickelodeon.

Nautical inspired bedding using sophisticated trends for boys.

Q: Which tools do you use?


I start with my Pantone Formula Guide Coated and Uncoated guides and then compare with the Pantone Extended Gamut Coated Guide.

Q: Do you have one or two ‘go-to’ colors you typically use? If so, what are they and why?


PANTONE 021 C and PANTONE 101 C for obvious reasons. PANTONE 021 C is our Nickelodeon orange and at the heart of our brand. It is part of almost every concept and product I see, from packaging to items on screen. PANTONE 101 C is the color of our beloved character SpongeBob SquarePants. When working on bedding and other room décor items, I am often trying to find complements that help him pop, and that find balance in the designs. My favorite color, however, is navy blue like PANTONE 280 C because it’s a very versatile color. It emulates royalty, it speaks to me in nature, but it also reminds me of my dad as he worked for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority for 25 years and it was the color of his uniform. Navy blue makes me feel happy.

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