Twice a year, the Pantone corporation holds secret meetings in a European capital to decide on a “Color of the Year”—something that fits the mood of the time. This year, for the first time in three years, Pantone also added a brand new color to its palette: minion yellow, after the Despicable Me character.
Of course, minion yellow is not a new new color. It has undoubtedly been produced and seen before. It is part of white light like every other visible color. But now it has a name, number, and a cartoon cast. Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says Pantone’s focus is on “what it means when people see [the color].”
Philosophers have a name for what it feels like to have an experience: qualia. And they have been arguing about qualia for over a century. How should qualia be defined? Do they exist for every experience? How do they play into the division between body and mind?
What’s remarkable about this debate, besides its longevity, is the frequency with which it uses color as the canonical experience—a unique point of intersection between the subjective and the objective, occupying a space that includes both minion yellow and plain old yellow.
But if you haven’t seen Despicable Me, is there a difference?
Welcome to “Color.”