Vellum Venom Vignette: Pantone 448 C

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

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,]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • CincyDavid CincyDavid on Jun 15, 2016

    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...

  • Salguod Salguod on Jun 19, 2016

    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.

    • Old Man Pants Old Man Pants on Jun 19, 2016

      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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