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David Shah

Colour bible Pantone’s publisher tells Emily Norval about its new website and why black was the last century’s iconic colour.

What can you tell us about the Pantone View concept?

Pantone and Metropolitan Publishing have been publishing colour forecast book Pantone View Colour Planner twice a year for 16 years to give colour direction to a range of industries. The website was a response to demand for a more continuous stream of critical and credible colour information - especially in recent years as colour has become the catalyst of design.

What content will people find?

Insight and analysis on how colour is breaking across different industries, geographies and cultures worldwide, right now as well as five years from now. Subscribers get access to a community of global colour experts, inside scoops from key industry leaders and invitations to webinars and live events where you can hear directly from the editorial team and special guests.

Where do colour trends come from?

First there are mega factors: in the early 1990s, we were talking ‘eco’ for the first time in a big way, which led us to the ‘green’ decade. Now we are in a time of ‘blue’ because water is the new global concern. Then there are the questions of cycles; things always come back into fashion. There are also cultural influences: events, films etc. But the biggest influence in trends is power and authority.

How far ahead do colour trends work?

Once upon a time, we used to work to strict timetables of yarns to fabric to clothing to retail. Now, it’s all about speed to market, quick response and flexibility. You need to think colours at two levels. The first lies in the sense of long-term direction. Are we in a period of bright colour, pastel, or metallic? What are the long-term social trends?What is the zeitgeist: masculine or feminine, speeding up or slowing down? The second lies in short-term trends or ‘stars’, which have maximum visual impact but no staying power - like fluo orange, purple or turquoise.

Is there any colour you think is overused and would like to see less of?

I have to say red. Not that I dislike red, but four years of it in all its hues from scarlet to coral to oxblood is enough.

Which is the most iconic colour from the last century?

If I had to choose one colour it would be black, from Henry Ford’s “You can have any colour you like, just so long as it’s black”, to that little black dress!

What’s the best part about your job?

Travelling and meeting people. Also the fact that things never stand still: I’m in a business that’s always moving on, evolving and changing.

Why launch now?

People are looking for direction and expertise to help them. Colour is the single most powerful communication tool, influencing 50% to 85% of ideas and product purchase decisions, so it’s important that designers get it right. We are suffering from a surfeit of information at the moment, so what designers often need is not information but confirmation. “Am I doing the right thing?”

Why is pink for girls and blue for boys?

Not anymore - quite the opposite! We are living in the world where Hamleys no longer separates toys for girls from those for boys!

Is your concept of ‘orange’ the same as my concept of ‘orange’?

Absolutely not! We are living in a time of global outsourcing but if I just say “do it in red’ to my merchandiser in Shanghai, her concept of red would be completely different to my understanding of red. There are immutable physical and mental reasons for this. That’s exactly why we need to create a language of colour and colour code systems, which is exactly what Pantone has done, to ensure we are all working at the same level.

What is your personal favourite colour?

I would have to say midnight blue, the Japanese blue of Yamamoto and Commes des Garçons.

What has been your career path up to this point?

After graduating, I joined fibre company Courtaulds in the early 1970s. I thought I was getting a job in the art gallery, Courtaulds, so it was quite a shock to find myself marketing acrylic fibre. From there, I joined Thompsons, the publishing company, and then spent a couple of very enjoyable years at Drapers Record as textile editor under Gerry Saunders, who taught me to write and drink! I then moved to The Netherlands as editor in chief of International Textiles BV. In 1988, I started my own publishing company and now have five titles within my group - Textile View, View2, Viewpoint, PantoneView Colour Planner and VIFF.

Publishing is a hobby and it’s very hard to live off it especially when you launch your own products. That’s why I started consultancy work in the late 1980s and have had the chance to work with many great companies and corporations from cars to textiles.

As one of my school teachers once wrote, “Shah is a jack of all trades and a master of none.”

If you could do any other job, what would it be?

I studied Classics at university and I always want to be an archaeologist. My favourite pastime is visiting Roman forts and cities wherever they are, from Housesteads to Baalbeck!

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