If Firmenich is the company best representing the senses utilizing the nose and mouth, then it’s safe to say that Pantone best represents the eyes. It’s a neurological condition called synesthesia when information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of your senses, and it was Cathleen, from our office in NY, that called me, not long after I started with Firmenich, to tell me there was a lady from a company called Pantone that was leaving her messages and trying to connect. Cathleen, not knowing who or what Pantone was, at the time, wasn’t interested in speaking with her, and asked me if I would be, to which I jumped at the opportunity. I’d been a brand advocate of Pantone’s easily since the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, when I took my first college-credit-worthy Communication Design class, at Parson’s School of Design on Fifth Avenue and 13th Street, back when the giant lizard was still on the roof of the Lonestar Café. The chance to talk to someone, from THE company, was too good to pass up.
A week later, I met Vicky for an afternoon coffee in an upper east side diner, and, we’ve been friends ever since - even years after her father, Lawrence Herbert, the founder of Pantone, sold his family’s company to X-Rite Corp. for a reported $180 million back in 2007. Vicky’s younger brother, Richard, ran the company with her Dad, while her knock-out of a sister, Lisa, ran the Fashion, Home & Textile arm of the company, and Vicky, well, Vicky was trying to make a name for herself by bringing the science of synesthesia to her project, the Pantone Color Institute, the same group that, under the leadership of color expert Laurie Pressman, would later introduce the Color of the Year. Laurie and Lisa worked together for a short while, after the acquisition, until Lisa threw in the towel and opened up a tennis shop in the Hamptons, while rumor has it that brother Richard is a car collecting angel investor, and Dad picked up a yacht! Life should be so colorful.
Vicky was no less colorful, in her very own unique way. During our first meeting, we became fast friends, connecting on both being raised in the Jewish faith and that we had both seen the light - THE light. My experience was due to a kundalini awakening, but Vicky's arrived while in a coma for three weeks, as an Arizona State undergrad, ejected from her new BMW when she crashed into a telephone pole in Upstate New York. Miraculously, here she was, sitting across from me, exquisitely disheveled in subtle high fashion, as we discussed how we could convince our ‘parents’ – as we referred to our respective family-owned, parent companies – that we really need to be working more closely together. It was a match made in heaven, but when Richard presented an official proposal to Robert, it was ultimately decided to keeps things platonic. Firmenich didn’t see the value, even though our customers found the relationship we established to be a true differentiator.
Color, in taste and smell, matters. A lot. A whole lot. Vicky and I went on to create a project together called “Perfusion,” that emphasized the interplay and inspiration derived from synesthesia, and generally fucked with people’s heads as we served brightly colored Jell-O cubes in all the “wrong” flavors. Orange was carrot. Red was cinnamon. Green was mint, and a Clear, which actually tasted like cucumber. Jaime created stunning visuals and graphics that made this traveling nano-Sensorium a memorable, half-day experience at the customer. When possible, and usually that meant local, Vicky would co-present with me, which only further enhanced the credibility of our collaboration. Perfusion even made its way to being shared, in an official capacity, for the very first time, with our Flavor Division’s customers, but the newly appointed head of the CMS, Marc, wouldn’t bring it to Europe because he was so put off by the idea that the name was also a word for the process in which blood is forced to flow through a network of microscopic vessels within biologic tissue, allowing exchange of oxygen and other molecules across semipermeable microvascular walls. Colorful nonetheless.