The Power of Purple

Bryan Bay

Color or colour (depending on where you use your English) is among the most influential visual components of a brand – which is probably why it’s often the most contentious.

The most critical task was to ensure the correct and consistent hue of purple was applied to every element

Reproducing the true hue of the client’s brand accurately across a range of materials and graphics is one of the exhibition designer’s major obsessions. They lose sleep worrying about it, bore their friends talking about it, and spend days of their professional lives attempting to convey its importance to others.

We know how they feel. However specific brand guidelines may be, in the real world there can be a big gulf between pure theory and down-and-dirty practice. The fact is that color/colour is always seen in context. Is the surface it’s applied to absorbent or reflective? What kind of light is shining on it or through it, and where from? Or is it a video image or luminaire producing its own light?

As people responsible for realizing some of the most demanding brand guidelines in some of the most demanding environments – from constricted hotel rooms to cavernous exhibition halls – we have acquired valuable know-how in the practical and consistent application of the desired hue. In short, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, not only on the ground but on walls and ceilings too.

But what’s all this got to do with purple? Well, purple is a hue with remarkable properties and a fascinating cultural history. It’s also one we’ve worked with on a recent project and so remains fresh in our mind’s eye.                

Until the accidental creation of mauveine, the first synthetic organic dye, by canny Victorian chemist William Perkin, purple was, frankly, a pain to produce. Before that time, all dyes were produced from natural substances. Many of the processes involved were convoluted but purple-making stood out as particularly onerous being based on the extraction of glandular mucus from large quantities of tiny sea snails.

As with most things in life, difficulty means rarity and rarity means expense. Consequently, through history purple was associated with wealth, prestige and power. And while these links are less prominent today, the hue still carries a classy and exclusive air that appeals to classy and exclusive brands – which leads us to The Macallan.

The Macallan, is a single malt Scotch whisky brand renowned for its unusual commitment to both tradition and innovation. Every year, it releases The Macallan Edition – a handpicked limited series, each having a special and distinctive character reflecting the rich diversity of oak casks used in maturation.

As one of the only whiskies with an amber hue that is 100 percent natural, the distillery wanted to celebrate this quality in their Edition No.5 and worked with the Pantone Color Institute to develop a special complementary shade for the label and box. The result was The Macallan Edition Purple.   

Our encounter with this carefully composed shade came when a longstanding agency client asked for our help in staging a launch event for The Macallan Edition No.5 at The Chambers by Cask – a famous Singapore bar regarded as a sanctuary for lovers of rare whisky.

The brief was to transform the bar’s compact Private Room into an immersive branded environment for the invited media and celebrities. While the space constraints were challenging, the most critical task was to ensure the correct and consistent hue of purple was applied to every element – from lighting and collateral to table cloths and glass stickers.      

We’re pleased to report that the launch was well received, with the audience enjoying their experience of a very special malt and its very special signature color/colour which, we’re also pleased to say, was produced without harming a single sea snail.

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