What does the Adobe-Pantone Color Controversy mean to Us as Designers?

Story Highlights
  • Adobe-Pantone: How did they begin
  • Falling out between the power couple
  • Why is this a bigger problem than it seems

Over the past few years, digital products have changed from one-time purchase and ownership models to software as a service or subscription-based. While on the surface, these services like Netflix, Adobe Creative Cloud, Xbox, and PlayStation game streaming services are more affordable, at least in the short term, many issues come along with them, as the Adobe-Pantone fiasco has recently shown.

Adobe-Pantone: How did they begin

Adobe has become a household name for most people. Their Creative Cloud, a subscription-based service, is a set of applications and tools geared towards artists like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and many more. For obvious reasons, these tools will require a set of colors, which is where Pantone comes in. Pantone is a company that has set

industry standards for what a particular color should look like. 

In digital art, and specifically, that which needs to be printed for scaled art, advertisement, products, or anything along those lines, these standards are very useful, as colors can be mixed up between the creator and the printer, but not the numbers that are assigned to these colors, something that Pantone has been doing since before the digital age.

Pantone had been a part of Adobe’s Creative Suite since the 1990s. Until recently, that is.

Falling out between the power couple

A few weeks ago, many artists woke up to find that the colors in their digital art on their Adobe files had been replaced by black. It turned out that Pantone had removed their license from the Creative Suite. Pantone stated that it was because Adobe refused to update

the colors (Pantone does so every 12-18 months), while Adobe stated that the truth behind it was that Pantone wanted to sell the license separately. That means, on top of the monthly fee paid to Adobe, users would also have to pay Pantone directly for the license to use the colors that have been available to them for decades.

Why is this a bigger problem than it seems

While one might say that $15 extra a month is not that much of a cost, it also needs to be considered that these costs add up. Both Adobe and Danaher Co. (Pantone’s parent company) are among the fortune 500 companies of the world. Before it adopted a software-as-a-service model, Adobe’s highest-tier Creative Suite was over $2500, but now that cost is exceeded in less than four years. 

This is only business; finding more and more ways to squeeze money out of users who have become dependent on the ecosystem because if either of these companies stops, the creative world will screech to a halt, and this would be avoided if users had ownership of what they were paying for. 

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