Why the graphic industry owes the colour that doesn’t exist to 2,000 dead soldiers


Sometimes even a copywriter’s mind wanders off into the realm of graphic design. Working on a corporate graphics guide right now, I became interested in what magenta actually is. Turns out it is perhaps the most fascinating of all colours.

First of all, although it is one of the basic components in the CMYK colour system used for four-colour printing, it isn’t a colour. It doesn’t exist in the light spectrum.

Second, it got its name 300 years after it was discovered. (This is where the German botanist and physician Leonhart Fuchs, 1501–1566, comes into the picture. If you know the fuchsia plant, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.)

Third, its name is not the name of a colour. It is the name of a battleground that changed European history.

Fourth, it behaves in strange ways. Head over to Liz Elliott’s article Magenta Ain’t a Colour and see for yourself.

(Oh yes, and for the rest of the story, look up “magenta” on Wikipedia and follow the links from there.)

When you’re done, come back here and tell me if you didn’t find it at least mildly interesting!

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