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Pantone wants you to see, taste and hear Classic Blue

By Sara Bauknecht, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Fashion Daily News

There's a small population of people in the world who associate colors with sounds because of a condition called chromesthesia, a type of synesthesia. It's the result of altered connectivity between the brain regions that connect sound and vision. But even for them, what they hear when they see a particular color is fairly individualized.

"I'm super curious about playing this for someone who has chromesthesia and getting their reaction to it," Chandrasekaran says.

There are loose associations between color and sound in the music world, too. In instrumental performance, for instance, color tone refers to the timbre or quality of the sound.

"They're using color as an analogy for something that's hard to describe," says Jesse Stiles, a musician, sound artist and assistant professor of sound media at Carnegie Mellon University.

The color blue has significance in the music world because of the blues style, he says. "It's the only genre strongly associated with a color."

He doesn't expect the "Vivid Nostalgia" sound to impact the music world in the way Pantone's color predictions sometimes influence what appears in stores.

"Stylistically, they're referring to pretty popular genres - low-fi, hip-hop, electronic dance music. If what they're going for is contemporary and relaxing, I think they've definitely found the pocket they're going for," he says.


"I was expecting some sort of droning, ambient sound," says Lindsey French, a visiting professor in the department of studio arts at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's not what I was expecting, but it's interesting. It's chill and soothing."

Beyond the fact that color and sound are both measured in waves, ties between Pantone's color pick and the music are pretty abstract and open to interpretation.

"They're talking about it as an anti-anxiety blue, but it also seems to be the blue of Facebook and Chase Bank and Venmo, which are like all these digital experiences that also give us some kind of anxiety," French says.

For the most part there is no real connection between color and sound. she says.

"We all come to things with different experiences. ... We have full license to make those connections for ourselves."

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