Color Me Impressed: The Evolution of Crayola


crayons_big2-480x480This is probably more evidence that I have too much time on my hands, but a few years ago, when my oldest kid graduated from chunky crayons to the 64-color box her awesome aunt sent her, I spent as much time with her looking at the names of the crayons as I did actually coloring with them. Some of my favorites were still there — magenta, violet, yellow-orange — and some were missing, like lemon yellow and raw umber. Some colors looked familiar but had new names. This was the 2008 anniversary box, so ones I’d grown up knowing as, say, flourescent pink were called things like “famous.”

As it turns out, that box of crayons we loved as children has evolved. And there are people who have studied this. According to this post on Weathersealed (which is funny and totally worth clicking on especially if, like me, 30 is way in the rear view mirror), there’s been an evolution of the crayons from the simple eight-color box issued in 1903 to the enormous crayon tower with 120 colors in it. When I was a kid in the 1970s, the 32-crayon box was the standard and the really lucky kids had the 64-crayon box with sharpener.

Along the way, there’s been an outburst of neon, some pretty sliver-flecked ones, tri-tipped three tone crayons meant to “make scenes come alive” and gem tones. Wikipedia lays out all these purty variations.

And for the visually minded, Weathersealed has a chart that tracks, in beautifully flowing form, the evolution of colors since 1903. That’s it over there). Weathersealed also says his friend that did the chart came up with an annual “growth rate” of colors — 2.56 percent — and “Crayola’s Law.” This little axiom states that the number of Crayola colors doubles every 28 years, which for me means that from the time I graduated to markers to now, twice as many colors are available.

This also means that by 2050, my grandchildren will have 330 crayons to choose from