Big Business Converts to Color-Reduced Printing

Could this be the end of full color printing as we know it?

Unilever – a company that prints so many labels and so much packaging that it would make your head explode to take it all in – is in the process of making a major change to the way they print.

Using Project Rainbow – no, not the secret government project, a color harmonization program – the company plans to reduce the number of colors it uses on packaging and labels from over 100 to just six.

For a company that prints as much as Unilever, this move is going to be a major money saver. And it might just be a green printing solution as well. After all, less ink means less waste, and reducing consumption is always good for the environment.

We haven't seen any of the six-color labels hit the shelves yet, and the jury's still out on how consumers are going to react, but so far, I hear, insiders are impressed by the results.

Right now, this color reduction scheme is only benefiting giants like Unilever that print on a massive scale, but I wonder if this is a sign of things to come.

Will we someday see color reduction happening in everything from labels to desktop printing? Could an economic shift coupled with environmental constraints eventually return us to an age of black and white? Is it possible that full color printing could be a short-lived luxury, as some speculate air travel and imported food will be?

I'm no printing conspiracy theorist, but it's interesting to imagine a future where we've slowly phased out color, going from full color printing, to six color, to four, to two (minimalist designers rejoice), and finally to black and white.

Now full color printing is just a memory, Hotcards is 'the lowest cost black and white printer in the nation,' and scraps of full color print, not yet decayed by time, are valuable relics, perhaps even used as currency, with the wealthiest among us hoarding piles of old brochures, posters, and banners from a forgotten golden age…

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