By on June 14, 2016


pantone. shutterstock user Bule Sky Studio

In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is — as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art. —Josef Albers, Interaction of Color

This is my favorite quote from the most intriguing textbook during my year at the College for Creative Studies. As an administrator of the Brown Car Appreciation Society, I’ve embraced this quote at every poorly chosen “brown” car that’s too close to yellow, red, gray, and green for most eyeballs.

So, when an Australian market research firm’s anti-smoking initiative found Pantone 448 C — a “drab dark brown” called Opaque Couché — the most off-putting color to cigarette smokers, it was no surprise the news eventually trickled down to my corner of the Interweb.

With public relations in full swing, the group headed by market-research agency GfK Bluemoon now hypes Pantone 448 C as the world’s ugliest color, which ‘‘was commonly described as ‘death’, ‘dirty’ or ‘tar’ without any positive adjectives,” said Victoria Parr, a researcher for the company.

I have my doubts about the Aussie’s drab, dark brown packaging’s ability to dissuade people already addicted to nicotine. Younger smokers will naturally gravitate to the cornucopia of colors available in the vape world. Like, awesome.

Color is an important part of any designer’s handbook. Product sales are often tied to the visual appeal of retail packaging — and cars are no different.

The anti-smoking olive-green is great for camo, but it doesn’t take a marketing genius to note its limited automotive appeal. It’s far different from the rich, deep, dark browns that are finally, thankfully, mercifully coming back to cars. King Ranch trucks (and its copy cats), top dollar Cocoa interior’d Porsches, and even a music-themed Roller show just how badass it is to be Back in Brown.

And while I was rightly mocked for trying (and failing) to render a vehicle in brown during my time at CCS, there’s no doubt that brown is anything but ugly. All those new cars launched in delicious shades of my favorite color? They prove I was on to something back in my years as a design student.

Or not.


[Image: Shutterstock user Bule Sky Studio,]

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37 Comments on “Vellum Venom Vignette: Pantone 448 C...”

  • avatar

    Isn’t that avacado?

    • 0 avatar

      The Porker looks suspiciously baby poo greenish brown to me. I’ve called it baby $h17 for as long as I can remember.

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      The super weird, autistic but sexy police detective heroine of Bron Broen drives a 911 this exact color. I’ve never wanted a baby-poop colored car more …
      Anyone looking for a bleak & brilliant Danish-Swedish tv show to make your hot summer nights feel more arctic, your search is over.

  • avatar

    Jeep and Toyota (for the Tacoma anyway) are using a “flesh-tone” color that looks like it should only be on the vehicle of a serial killer or a pornstar.

    But I have noticed that green is starting to make a comeback in automotive fashion, thank god.

  • avatar

    Um, I like the color on the Porsche.

    I’ve always like 70s colors found on appliances, like Avocado Green and Harvest Gold. More interesting than black, white or stainless steel. But, I have an affinity for vintage appliances. Lots of chrome, simple (read: not computerized), built to last and to perform well.

  • avatar

    I like the copper brown… My parents had an older jeep grand cherokee laredo in brown that had the grey side skirting to break it up… I really liked that car despite it trying to kill them on a couple instances… Cars are too slab sided now to look god in brown I believe..

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Sajeev, I guess I’m glad you are the one that appreciates a brown car.

    If I were Mayor, they would be illegal…

    But..I own two yellow vehicles so my color palate may be just as suspect as yours.

  • avatar

    I’d call that color on the 911 “Chickensh-t”. But, I actually like it on that.

  • avatar

    I find that browns which are tinted more towards the red end look fairly good. The “cinnamon” and “Kodiak Brown” Ford used over the past few model years were very not bad. The “Rosewood metallic” Buick offers isn’t bad either.

  • avatar

    I liked the Agate Brown that was used on VWs, Porsches, and Audis in the mid ’70s.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    You can have your brown, but I absolutely demand that teal make a comeback.

  • avatar

    I have a weakness for brown Mini’s – the Clubman (first gen that is) looks great in brown.

    • 0 avatar

      Heck yes it does! I vaguely recall them calling that color Hot Cocoa, though Flat Root Beer seems more like it. Gorgeous. And even the off-putting silver accents of that gen Clubman work with it, though I’d probably go with the black option as that owner did.

  • avatar

    I’ll take 448C over any of the silver hordes that are on the roads now. Colors can be polarizing, but the variety of European pastels that came out in the ’70s are distinctive.

    I have a friend who has a ’78 300D in Caledonia Green, code 867. Not his car, but:

    Image # 5 in the ad shows the color in the correct hue..Guacamole never looked so good.

  • avatar

    Pretty close to PANTONE PQ-18-0622TCX “Olive Drab”

  • avatar

    When I was a kid, the only new car my folks ever purchased–1974 Pinto Wagon in…wait for it….Ginger Glow (i.e. brown) Metallic.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    My E70 X5 was “Sparkling Bronze Metallic” (B06), which I quite liked.

  • avatar

    I was expecting Sajeev to go on more than yet another “Brown is great” tangent, but 448 is not a color I would consider brown, it’s more of a dark puke green. It’s less earthy than many browns used in car colors. I know this is splitting hairs for a lot of people here. Most, if not all, car browns are on the red side, and for good reason. You want to imply the richness of a horse’s coat, or tanned leather. Greenish browns by themselves remind people of only one thing, and it’s not pretty.

    I’ve actually used 448 in some designs in the past, but it’s not a color I use as a primary because nobody likes puke brown. You can use it as a great neutral accent to play off of a brighter orange or yellow that’s adjacent to it. It’s one of those “a little goes a long way.”

    The Porsche in question is more of a dark beige color in proper light, not in shadow. It looks a lot like Cashmere Beige. Porsche Torgo Brown is a favorite of mine, but it’s a better looking color for a primary than 448. It’s less neutral, more red, and has richness that the dark puke copper 448 lacks.

    • 0 avatar

      The official PANTONE colorimeteric LAB values are 28 / 2 / 16. So its a tiny bit red with a shift towards yellow. So technically its not green at all but as mentioned everyone sees color differently and unless you view the color under controlled D50 lighting (noon daylight sun) a visual shift can occur due to metamerism.

      My job involves graphic reproduction (aka digital printing) and I teach a color science class. My formal education is in graphic design and I agree this could be a nice color if used as an accent when you are going for a near neutral that adds a touch of warmth. But as primary solid on a car? Ummm no thank you. There are many other brown shades especially those with some metal flakes that would be so much better. I drive an orange (some say copper or rust) colored car and my wife’s car has brown (Java) trim so I love a good non-normal color, but PMS 448C is not it.

      • 0 avatar

        Kefkafloyd and JMII, wanted to thank you both for your knowledgeable posts…that’s why I come to TTAC…we have a number of people that know a hell of a lot about the various areas of expertise required to design, manufacture, market, sell, and race vehicles. Now excuse me while I look up “metamerism”…

      • 0 avatar

        We are kindred souls. I work for an OEM in the graphic arts industry (formerly a RIP vendor which went out of business and got gobbled up by a bigger one) so we are definitely more alike than different, but I was lazy and didn’t dig up my formula books and went by an app swatch list I had handy. So you got one on me. :)

  • avatar

    Coming a little more towards brown and away from green is Scion’s Army Rock Metallic:

  • avatar

    The color on what I take to be a Volvo wagon is pretty sweet. In fact, the whole car is – will it come with a manual? Didn’t think so.

    The last car my father got before our family switched to silver coupes was a bronze ’59 Oldsmobile Super 88; both in the brown family, and a four door.

    I have been thinking that I would like something in what I have been calling a dark copper metallic, but, yeah, you could certainly call that brown. I love the medium grey metallic (Quartz Gray) of my current A5, but if it gets replaced with a similar car when it reaches 10 years of age, I might want it to look somewhat different, and it’s not like the styling of Audis has changed much in ten years.

  • avatar

    That Porsche up there looks like baby food peas.

  • avatar

    I’ve always like the brown metallic paints found a lot of American cars in the early 1970s. There’s nothing like a clean and shiny metallic brown car.

    I especially liked the 1971 Ford LTD Hardtop Coupe in brown metallic with a brown vinyl roof, or the 1971 Ford LTD Country Squire in brown metallic with translucent simulated wood-grain vinyl paneling that lets a bit of the paint color underneath show through.

    And I have seen some nice drawings of brown cars through the years. Markers and watercolors.

  • avatar

    Baby-shit yellow is what comes to my mind.

  • avatar

    I don’t care for any brown or maroon on a car. We have 3 black cars, one silver and one ghastly light greenish gold (Kia Sportage).

    That 911 is greenish enough that I kinda like it…

  • avatar

    Back in design school at the University of Cincinnati one professor said that only God and John Deere should be allowed to use green. I look at my Boston Green 318ti and I have to disagree.

    • 0 avatar

      When I were a tot my Mom fed us a lot of pea soup. I loved it!

      My Dad’s work car then was a ’51 Studebaker Commander in a green that *exactly* matched her pea soup. I loved the Stude, too. Fondness by association?

      I like any green without a trace of yellow in it.

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