How I got my job: Laurie Pressman started out in buying and merchandising, and is now vice president at the Pantone Color Institute. She reveals how she combined consumer awareness with industry experience to get to where she is now.
Dezeen Jobs: Can you explain your current job and what it involves?
Laurie Pressman: My current job at Pantone is vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. At a base level, everything I do involves an understanding of the pivotal role that colour plays in the design process. This includes; the role and influence that colour plays in consumer behaviour (psychological and physiological responses to colour), colour messages and meanings, the relationship between colour and context and colour and culture. It also includes the technical aspects of colour – for example, understanding colour and achievability – this means knowing that a neon shade you see in synthetic or printed material may not accurately reproduce on cotton.
I think that for someone to do my job effectively, a love of colour combined with an understanding of psychology is fundamental. Intuition and an ability to connect the dots, to take in what is happening around you and to translate it into the language of colour is also essential.
Dezeen Jobs: What kind of projects do you work on?
Laurie Pressman: Most of what I do revolves around colour intelligence. This includes working with clients who need help selecting colours for their brand's visual identity or product lines. This often involves developing customised colour messaging, which will further enhance colour and brand association for clients in support of their brand's visual identity and/or product colours. I also participate in the creation of our colour trend forecast books; forecasting colour trends on the catwalk and getting involved in the Pantone Color Institute selection of the Pantone Color of the Year.
Dezeen Jobs: What does a typical day look like for you?
Laurie Pressman: I often describe my days as being spent eating, drinking and breathing colour. That said, there are no typical days – that's what makes my job so exciting. Colour touches every single aspect of our world. It's not unusual for me to spend a day sitting with a company in Scotland, helping to develop a unique shade for a brand campaign based on the products they sell. The next day however, I could be talking with a chemical company about colour and finish achievability, in pigments that will be used in new products for colour cosmetics that will be available to the consumer in three years' time.
Dezeen Jobs: What have some of your career highlights been so far?
Laurie Pressman: Some of my career highlights include the relationships I have developed with a global group of people who have taught me to see into the future and the ability to use my intuitive skills in a way that is creative and brings happiness to others. An upcoming highlight is that I will co-author a new book on colour. This will be a first for me and I am really looking forward to it.
Dezeen Jobs: Where and what did you study?
Laurie Pressman: I received my undergraduate degree from Boston University where I majored in marketing and psychology. I received my master's degree in Psychology from New York University.
Dezeen Jobs: Did you always want to have a career specialising in colour?
Laurie Pressman: Prior to joining Pantone, I worked in US based retail department stores and product development in fashion accessories, apparel and homewares. Colour plays a key role in consumer engagement in all these areas, so I was always cognisant about colour and trends, but I didn't start out specialising in colour alone. What is special about my role today as vice president of the Pantone Color Institute is that I have been able to blend my past professional experience with my psychology training, spending my days doing everything I love most.
Dezeen Jobs: Talk us through your career progression – where did you work before Pantone and what other roles have you had at the company?
Laurie Pressman: I began my career as an assistant buyer, eventually becoming a homeware and then fashion accessories buyer for a US based department store which now sits under the Macy's umbrella. Upon returning to NYC from LA, I went to New York University for my master's degree in psychology. From there I returned to retail merchandising for what was then called Federated (parent company of Macy's and Bloomingdales) and is now called Macy's, and then on to an apparel company where I was involved in product development.
I joined Pantone in April 2000 in a role that focused on building our presence for colour standards and trends in the fashion, home furnishings and interior design markets, moving up the ladder to become a vice president in 2008. In 2013, Pantone decided they wanted to bring Pantone Color Institute into the spotlight and I was named vice president of the Pantone Color Institute in order to help accomplish that goal globally.
Dezeen Jobs: How would you describe the working culture at Pantone and what do you enjoy most?
Laurie Pressman: Unsurprisingly, the working culture at Pantone is colourful! We are very lucky to be working in an industry that makes people happy. What I enjoy most in my role is how different each day is from the next. I am naturally a curious person – I love that I am in a role where I am always meeting new, interesting, and creative minded people. I love that through my work, I can travel and discover new cultures, people, art, food and history. Working at Pantone has enabled me to learn and experience so many different things that I otherwise might never have had the opportunity to do. And what’s best is that this is all been done through the lens of colour, something which makes people smile.
Dezeen Jobs: Tell us something about Pantone that we probably wouldn't know?
Laurie Pressman: Calvin Klein used a Pantone colour chip to show those making coffee for him the exact shade it needed to be.
Jay Z was the first celebrity to come to us in 2007 to develop his own Pantone colour.
It is a lot more technical than one might think. Colour is a complex business and developing colour itself is an art and a craft, but also a complicated science. Our colourists and those working in quality control have to take the FM100 hue test every year and must score 100%. They are allowed an occasional miss, but I stress the occasional. These are the people we depend on to ensure colour consistency.
Dezeen Jobs: What skills do you look for in potential applicants?
Laurie Pressman: Generally, I would say someone who is curious, forward-thinking, analytical and thoughtful. Obviously, a love of colour and the understanding of the intersection of colour and design is quintessential.
Dezeen Jobs: How has your team evolved since you’ve started working at Pantone?
Laurie Pressman: My team at the Pantone Color Institute has expanded and evolved over the past few years. We live in a dynamic world – one marked by fluidity and an onslaught of information. Clients are looking for expert guidance, colour clarity and clear direction. My team needs to be able to provide this, to be aware of the pressures our clients are facing and to be able to support them with the information and education they need to help them succeed.
Dezeen Jobs: What other types of jobs exist within the company?
Laurie Pressman: Pantone, at its core, is a producer of colour standards. So, there are many roles on the technical side including dyers, printers and colourists. Also, as we sell products, there are roles in marketing, web, sales and customer service.
Dezeen Jobs: What skills have you found to be most useful throughout your career?
Laurie Pressman: Intuition, thoughtfulness, strategic thinking, creativity, the ability to connect the dots, good listening, an appreciation of others, taking initiative and the capacity to outline a clear vision.
Dezeen Jobs: What advice would you give your younger self?
Laurie Pressman: Be patient. Learn from anyone and everyone that you can. Be open and work hard. One day each of your experiences will come together, you will blossom, and it is only because of all the experiences that you have had, that you can get to where you want to be.
Dezeen Jobs: Do you feel your studies helped you to get to where you are today?
Laurie Pressman: Absolutely! At the time I viewed returning to university for my masters as a reprieve. Who knew at the time that it would serve as an essential component in my future – each and every day in my role, it is my psychology training that has proved to be a core element to my success.