Pantone: The 20th Century in Color

While I'd always been interested in history, it wasn't until I got to college that I fell in love with it. A special course on the 20th century actually led me to make the subject my second major.

That course was taught by one of the top professors at the university I attended. What made him different was that he didn't focus on dates, names, or places. Those were all essential to learn, but even more important, the professor told us, was to see the big picture. To trace how different things came together to push movements and people forward. To understand where we're at today, you've got to understand the ways in which we've evolved.

This seems to be the shared goal of Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker, the color-connoisseur authors of Pantone: The 20th Century in Color (Chronicle Books, 2011). The Pantone Color Institute is considered one of the highest authorities on color; Recker is a trend consultant there and Eisemen is the executive director. Together, the pair has compiled 208 pages of vibrant photos and rich narrative, detailing how color thrived and developed from 1900 to 2000. It's a fascinating progression to follow.

Pantone: The 20th Century in Color breaks down the hallmarks of each decade and matches them with 80 different official Pantone color palettes. Trends in fashion, travel, art, furniture, technology and films are accompanied by explanations of their significance, making it simple to grasp each trend's relationship to the colors associated with it, and to the relevant social and political history playing out in the background.

From the jewel-toned lamps of the 1900s, decked in Chinese violet and Victoria blue hues, to the bright purple, red and orange colors that technology giants like Apple began using for their products in the 1990s, Eiseman and Recker have done an exemplary job of painting a vivid big picture of the role color has played in all aspects of culture throughout the decades.

For more on color, consider:

Guide to Historic Paint Colors
Color Trends 2012: Top Forecasters Weigh In
Eve Ashcraft's 6 Inspirations for Choosing a Color Palette