#71 Solving a color match problem

I and the client company’s marketing manager had to solve a color problem. The company logo was two colors: red and an orangish-yellow with black type set in Franklin Gothic Extrabold.

The company built industrial aluminum molds for casting and forming products or packaging from foam, plastic, and other materials.

1. The company logo was originally designed by the owner’s now ex-wife. No records existed of what colors were used.2. After that time, the logo was printed on letterhead by a subcontract designer, Melisa. She was available by phone. She had no written record of what the colors were but had a good guess.

3. A third designer (an IT guy) put together the website and used what he thought were the right colors in hex code. They didn’t match the print version.

So we had three sets of colors. In addition to this, when I pointed out the inconsistencies, The marketing manager said,

4. “All I really want is the color to match our business card.” That introduced a fourth color combination.

So I dove into analyzing the colors and comparing them. I then made three visual charts to demonstrate to them the results. In the end, I made recommendation of what we should specify for print and web media. I thought I’d share how that “looked” and also a couple of pages of the resulting website style guide.

It was necessary to coach the client and his boss about the differences in RGB, CMYK, and Pantone color gamuts. They actually enjoyed learning this stuff.

Doing this analysis and presentation earned me some extra money and brought in not only the website rework but also a print presentation portfolio for tradeshows. Around $4,900 in time. The moral of this story: Presentation makes a difference. Don’t just tell them. Show them and document your work. It makes you more professional.

Websafe colors were specified but not necessary. I chose those to keep things simple and memorable when designing. Websafe is not a necessary feature.

The story doesn’t have a happy ending. In recent years, after over 25 years in business, the company was forced to close it’s doors permanently because of offshore competition. Sad day in Mudville to see a company die. I still wear my D8 T-shirt they gave me – in their memory.


Those RGB references were either supplied by the previous designer’s “guesses” or from flatbed scans. Neither were super reliable but it was all we had. They were inconsistent. The client was paranoid about color consistency being fixed. But they never realized how all of their colors really were all over the map. This was mainly a method of “opening their eyes”. They thought they had a standard. They didn’t.

Like most machine shops, they were very big into standards. So I was helping them develop those for each medium– web and print. They saw how they couldn’t get exactly the same rendering in each environment but they could get things a lot closer with some adjustment and coaching.

Mainly, this diminished their anxiety of appearing foolish (the owner actually had a 4-year degree in graphic design!). To me, all I wanted was a decision. This presentation made that decision easier for them.

Grayscale differential (contrast) was important in making things work online. It also helped them see why yellow type on white wouldn’t work.

All that mattered was the client get over their stress so we could move on and finish projects.