Like Apples and Oranges

FTR-Primary Concerns/Like Apples and Oranges"I think everyone should wear more orange," my friend said, decisively, and I looked at her again, a woman with dark hair and fair skin and freckles and a slight flush on her cheeks, and I saw that she looked amazing in orange - as pretty as Kelly Kapowski on the '90s sitcom Saved By The Bell, everyone's favorite girl, sweet and glowing in a tight orange minidress, innocent in a low-cut orange unitard with a white jacket over her shoulders - orange just lit her up, my friend, I mean, though Kelly Kapowski looked pretty awesome, too.

Is there no color more arresting, more inclined to giggles, richer with association? It's eye-catching, it's fun, it's young, it's everyone's favorite ice pop flavor after red, because nobody minds a mouth cold and sweet with orange, a tongue stained orange, lips too and even sometimes a little orange dripped on the fingers.

My friend was right, everyone should wear more orange, eat more orange, use more orange - Mark Rothko was right, much earlier, of course, when he built a hypersaturated palette in the 1930s with blocks of sumptuous orange. "I think it's a perfect color," says Debbie Millman, a partner in Sterling Brands and a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York. "It's warm, it's inviting, it's sophisticated, it has a lot of incredible associations. Think of The Gates, with that remarkable orange color."

"I don't wear anything but black," she says. "But I aspire to orange."

The Dutch were right to make it their national color, after Prince William of Orange, and Dutch bank ING Group was right to brand everything about itself orange - such an optimistic color, its research now says, and who doesn't long for a little optimism with their banking these days. "There's just something in-your-face about orange," says Bruce Philp of GWP Brand Engineering, coauthor of the forthcoming The Orange Code, about ING's do-good-make-money corporate culture, and a collaborator in its 1996 Canadian launch. Orange is not shy. ING went to court over orange, suing rival bank PNC, which branded one of its products with an orange ball.

So why don't we use more orange? Orange is difficult to reproduce, problematic for branding and copyright. But when you've got it, you've got something stunning. Tropicana, Hermes, the UK telecom Orange - they own the color in the eyes of consumers, Millman says. Knocking off that deep Hermes orange would be like copying Tiffany's blue.

Handled badly, orange can be overwhelming or awkward, in ways softer colors are not. AT&T fumbled trying to work Cingular orange into its own staid marketing, but now it does so with an expert touch, setting neat orange text and color blocks on clean white backgrounds, letting orange play off the blue AT&T logo, made so much more modern.

Orange does not always work well with other colors, or by itself in large quantities. It requires what Philp calls the "judicious use of white," as in Tropicana's new packaging, in which Millman had a hand.

If you're not smart about orange, you risk losing all impact, says Frank Falcone, and he would know. Falcone is creative director and president of Guru Studio, which does animated spots for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese: flowing orange rivers, an orange geyser, a bouncy orange dinosaur. Guru creates visual separation between these appearances of orange. While the warmth must be consistent, the tones and texture can change. "Slavishly matching the brand color pixel for pixel would be wrong," Falcone says. "The orange in these spots appears as a material, which is as important as the color itself."

Come to think of it, is macaroni and cheese as appealing in any other color than bright, iridescent orange? Since that first envelope of powdery orange magic was torn open in 1937, have kids even missed Mom's pale homemade?

Orange can telegraph value, Philp points out - Home Depot, FedEx and, of course, ING - in fact, Kraft introduced its mac and cheese during a time of rationing; when it goes on sale for 99 cents a box, I feel the urge to stock up.

Orange does not whisper. It shouts. Beyond the sweet, beyond the fun, the optimistic, there's the shock of it, the punk rock and loud f*ck you of orange; the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine; Agent Orange, both the poison (shipped in orange barrels) and the punk band (named after the poison, in backlash); A Clockwork Orange.

There's the orange of life jackets, traffic cones, hunting vests, CalTrans orange - also called "safety orange," regulated by OSHA, and mandated on the tips of toy guns. Orange gets your attention. Orange does not blend in. Everyone won't wear more orange. That's the point.

"Orange is a perfect complementary color foil," Falcone says, "to the common."
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