Columbia University’s official style guide when it comes to logos, blue290, says that our school’s color is… well, Pantone 290. But take a look at that color on this article’s swatch. Doesn’t that look too pale? Where’s the last place you looked and said, “yeah, that’s Columbia Blue?” The Athletics department claimed in 1999 that our official color was Pantone 292. But when you ask the current Athletics Style Guide, it claims that our color isn’t Pantone 290 or Pantone 292, but instead the elusive Pantone 291. What’s going on?
When you start digging, you’ll find that Columbia Blue is a terrifying thing to track down. Columbia primarily identifies colors via the Pantone Matching System, or PMS, which uses physical swatches to define colors. Unfortunately, the Pantone system doesn’t fit the internet or modern printing well, which means that even University departments that agree on what Pantone color ought to be used are still in intense disagreement about what it looks like.