We’re going to let you in on a little secret.
Color can be complicated. Really complicated.
From the outside looking in, it may not seem that way. But trust us when we say color can stir up a lot of questions!
And no one knows this better, or can explain it more comprehensively, than Datacolor’s Senior Applications Specialist Kenny Thomas.
Kenny is one of the go-to supporters of the inks, pigments, films, plastics, and industrial coatings fields, who also provides educational and consulting services. He is a true polymath – he seems to have almost encyclopedic knowledge! Typically, any issue considered abnormal or overly-complicated, ends up on his desk. But he has made it his mission to assist Datacolor’s customers by resolving these complexities.
“I like to help any customer I encounter. If a question is weird, it is usually given to me, and I am happy to find the answer” he told us. “There’s connections among the sciences that go to the very psychophysics of color. I love it when I can find a link between these, and relate it to someone who is facing some obstacle. My motivation truly comes down to this: I get to watch another person react to their frustrations being positively resolved. You can see it – it’s a visceral reaction. Sometimes they’ll laugh, sometimes there’ll be a sigh – I love that.”
With well over three decades of experience in the arena, Kenny is without a doubt a one-of-a-kind authority in his department. That wealth of knowledge, coupled with a fervent desire to support Datacolor’s clientele, has created the precise formula for this brilliant, dedicated problem-solver to thrive within our industry. We’re thrilled to shed a little light into his world, and thank him for sharing his knowledge and professional adventures!
Location: Lawrenceville, but with his laptop and phone he could be anywhere
Favorite color: Visible ones
Educational Background: Chemistry and Microbiology
Favorite hobby: “It varies. I tend to binge-focus on activities. But piano is a constant – I think people are surprised when they find out I play the piano.”
Fun fact: “I was raised on a farm, and then worked part-time through school as a musical comedian. I told bawdy jokes while playing the piano. But the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life (when I was younger) was skydiving.”
Most Unique Samples Handled: Embalming fluid, tattoo ink, nano voids, encapsulated colors.
Kenny’s Journey with Datacolor
Kenny has officially been with the Datacolor team for 30 years. With an initial background in pigment production, he ended up with our staff on an aeronautical whim. He laughingly explained that “In 1987 a recruiter called me about an open position and said, “Do you want to go to an interview in New Jersey? You’ll get to ride on a plane!” I had been on one plane ride before that, so I excitedly told him “I’ll do it!” – not expecting to be overly impressed with the actual interview. But there I met the people I would eventually work with, and it all started because I wanted to ride on a plane 34 years ago.”
Spending so much time at Datacolor has certainly afforded Kenny the opportunity to encounter a wide scope of challenges. Knowing this, we were interested to hear a few of those most memorable to him. He recalled, “In 1998, I undertook a project to determine which algorithms, between those from ACS, Datacolor, and ICS, were the most effective at executing specific tasks. That survey of methods was challenging. Later, when ChromaCalc III was released, I probably coded about one third to half – maybe more – of the features and functions of those specifications, and the longevity of that product makes me proud. More recently, we had a client whose network was attacked by ransom-ware during the night, causing their system to be completely locked down. This crisis occurred over the weekend, and unfortunately, they had nothing to work with as far as backups or installation media. But what they did have was my direct number that forwards to my cell phone. I answered it, and while the client ran to the store to buy a new desktop, I remotely found a backup of some of their data and was able to assist them.”
Overcoming these challenges seems to be all in a day’s work for Kenny. But after 30+ years of conquering complicated quandaries, you would think he would be ready for a break! When asked for his personal reason for working at Datacolor, he quipped, “Who said it was work?”
He then elaborated: “At the same time I’m teaching, I’m also learning – from both coworkers and clients. For the most part, I really don’t think what I do is work. I’m part of really great team here at Datacolor. Whether it’s a customer or colleague, they might share a trick or correct a misconception, but after all these years in the field, I’m still learning and growing. How rewarding is that?”
Words from the Wise
We wanted to know what advice Kenny would give to any color professional. Here are his top 5 tips (although he has plenty more in his arsenal!):
- Repeatability and Reproducibility of your color processes will determine the quality of computer color predictions
- Metamerism, judiciously used in color prototyping, can support more consistent production
- Color is an indicator. So is spectroscopy. Learn the color and spectral effects material & process changes.
- Know your color discrimination capability and aptitude.
- “Device-independence” is a relative term. Any color containers (coordinate system, material or mind) is a device.