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.
For instance, Columbia’s Logo page claims that Pantone 291 most neatly matches the hex code #a8cee2, which provides a powder blue. But Athletics claims that Pantone 291 should be replicated with the subtractive CMYK system as 27,0,0,0, creating a loud cyan. And then the University tells us that we can use Pantone 284 on a light background, and everything goes out the window.
We’re not the only ones bugged by this. Editor-in-Chief of The Lion Will Essilfie (CC ’18) recently posted to Deantini’s Facebook page asking the 290’s question. Deantini assured everyone that an alumnus is on the case. But we’re not happy with an empty promise. Consider this a call-out. Until we get a firm answer, we’re just going to assume that the official Columbia Blue is just the color of Bwog’s light blue.