How Will The New PANTONE Goe System Affect Your Work?

About The GoeGuide

The PANTONE Goe System marks a sea change in how Pantone organizes its swatchbook colors. The PANTONE® FORMULA GUIDE (the PMS swatchbook) is organized by a centerline color, which is the color in the center of every page. These colors are either PMS mixing bases or combinations of bases. The colors above it are tints created by adding PANTONE Clear; the colors below are shades created by adding black. These colors are then numbered sequentially. The downsides to this method is that the numbers don’t necessarily tell you which color you are referring to and the palette is not organized like a spectrum or color wheel.

Goe pages

A single PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE PAGE at left, with five GoeGuide pages at right. Comparing the two will help you understand the Goe concept. Click to enlarge.

The Goe System palette is organized with “full strength colors,” or colors created with one or two Goe mixing bases. This allows the highest chroma values for each color. Full strength colors occupy the bottom color bar of a page and colors above it are given increasing amounts of PANTONE Clear. However, if one page has a full strength color at the bottom then the next page has that same color plus some black, thus creating a shade. That page then adds PANTONE Clear to create the other colors above it. If a full-strength color can have up to seven levels of PANTONE Clear and up to five levels of black added to it, then that color has 35 different Goe colors associated with it across a series of pages.

Full strength colors are organized from series to series in chromatic order so the entire GoeGuide looks like a color wheel when spread out. Because of this new organization, it becomes much easier to use the GoeGuide and the Goe System in general. I personally use my PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE only rarely because I do not like hunting for colors with it. The GoeGuide is organized the way the PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE should be organized.

Numbering The Goe Colors: As Easy As 5, 4, 1

What color is PANTONE 145? How about PANTONE 7469? I couldn’t tell you without picking up a swatchbook or launching Photoshop. The PANTONE Goe System tries to clear things up with a new numbering system. Here’s how it works:

PANTONE (C)-(B)-(W) (P)

C = Full strength color (numbered from 1 to 165)
B = Amount of black (1 = no black, maximum of 5)
W = Amount of white (7 = no white, maximum of 1)
P = Paper type (usually “C” for coated)

Goe color

The GoeGuide entry for PANTONE 4-1-4 C. Click to enlarge.

In the example above, PANTONE 4-1-4 C is a yellow with no black and some PANTONE Clear.

As far as I can tell, the numbers don’t actually say how much of the black or white mixing bases are added to the color. It’s only there to describe where on the scale each color resides. It’s kind of a confusing combination: black increases as its number increases, but white actually decreases as its number increases. Moreover, it’s up to you to know the full strength color numbers. The scale begins at yellow (0) and sweeps around to brown-black (165). 70, for example is a blue. I wouldn’t expect designers or printers to memorize these numbers—more likely, designers will only need to have an idea of what a full strength color might be, and printers will refer to a booklet to know exactly what mixing bases are required.

Can Pantone Successfully Market Both?

I am excited about Goe, because Pantone is doing the right thing in revising an old standard and they are doing it well. Goe has more colors, more consistency, better organization, a better numbering structure, and more new products to support it (look for Samuel Klein’s article about myPANTONE, PANTONE GoeSticksâ„¢ and other Goe-related toys for designers, or see below). I would expect the Goe System to be the de facto standard in ten years.

Goe package

Here you can see the GoeGuide, GoeSticks and the myPANTONE software on CD. Click to enlarge.

However, there’s already a standard—the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM. So do designers and printers need the Goe System if they already have a standard color system that’s been around for almost fifty years? There’s rarely room for more than one dominant product in any industry, and when there is it’s not long before one loses its market share and fades away (Freehand is a prime example). The Goe System has most of the PMS colors in its structure already, so there’s a case to be made for eliminating the PMS and adopting Goe—but Pantone is not advocating that, at least not yet. It’s an interesting debate, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Pantone’s decision-makers were discussing what would eventually become the Goe System.

I think that, in the end, one system will have to supplant the other as “the standard.” It makes sense for the Goe System to be that new standard, but for the time being don’t expect Pantone to press that notion. I wouldn’t expect designers and printers to change quickly either, but that remains to be seen.