Thursday Salute to Originals: Pantone’s Ugly Duckling

It’s no secret that color has the ability to affect our mood, health, and decision making process. But when it comes to a hue’s influence, we tend to focus on “prettier” colors and how they can positively impact ourselves and our environments. Hospitals use soothing tones of blue to promote tranquility and healing; fast food advertisements utilize vibrant reds to encourage hunger and increase sales. More recently though, focus has shifted to what has been deemed the ugliest color in the world, all in an effort to curtail a toxic habit.


Pantone 448 C, also known as Opaque Couché (and not-so-affectionately as death and tar), has been branded the world’s ugliest color by a group of Australian researchers. Normally, this would be considered a bad thing – really, who wants to be awarded the “Most Putrid Color” award? But an intensely distasteful color is exactly what these researches were looking to discover.


Several years ago, the Australian government commissioned the research company, Gfk Bluemoon, to create offensive cigarette packaging that would deter smokers from purchasing.  Along with completely stripping down and standardizing the graphic design of the package itself – no fancy fonts, no logos, no cool imagery – and instead plastering it with health warnings and graphic photos, they needed a putrid color to complete the design. After months of studies with smokers, Pantone 448 C was ultimately determined to be the winner (or loser, depending on how you look at it).

Remarkably, the hideous color and disturbing packaging design seems to be working. Australia has already seen decreases in tobacco sales, and other European nations are adapting the new design, as well.

For flipping color theory and design on its head, and using what is considered “ugly” to (hopefully, positively) impact the decision of millions, we salute Australia and Gfk Bluemoon. It’s that type of creative thinking that reminds us just how important thoughtful design can be – for better or worse.

Sources: Pantone, Metro Co UK, Time