pantone color swatches for graphic design and printingX-Rite acquired Pantone several days ago for $180 million. Panton has been the leader for print color matching for decades. X-Rite produces a variety of color calibration software and hardware (including, apparently, something called the Munsell Frozen French Fry Color Standard). The acquisition has been pretty widely reported, though without much commentary. So what does it mean to users of the Pantone system?

It’s hard to be sure. Certainly it means that X-Rite has a virtual monopoly on the world of color matching. But really, as far as print is concerned, Pantone was already the only significant player. But Pantone was not a very innovative or collaborative company (as Walter Zacharias reports in a Friesens newletter) — their color swatches, for example, were printed on nonstandard paper under atypical conditions. Rather than cooperating with printers and others who wanted to improve color definition and integration, they protected their systems with very aggressive legal action. So there is reason to hope that X-Rite will be more open to new technologies and collaborative activities, and that this purchase will be a positive development for graphic designers.