The Evolution of Crayon Colors

As a lover of data visualization, I couldn’t resist sharing this one from Stephen Von Worley depicting the evolution of beloved Crayola crayons from their humble roots as an eight-pack of fun in 1903 to today’s 120-pack.

Visualization by Stephen Von Worley

I’m a total data geek, which is why I love data visualizations. I couldn’t help looking for patterns and analyzing the official chronology of what has been added, retired, renamed, etc. in each iteration.

Some noteworthy nuggets I found:

  • The original eight are all still in the box, and they were good enough for 32 years.
  • I wonder why, during the Great Depression, Crayola decided to double the number of colors. Seems like an odd time to innovate, due to higher costs, but definitely a morale booster during economic times, at least for those who could afford crayons. I wonder if the box of 16 became a status symbol.
  • There’s a good correlation with macroeconomic cycles, i.e. the 90s spurred lots of color innovation, raising the box to its current population of 120. Likewise, after the Bubble burst in 2000, the colors have remained more stable, and the box has stayed at 120.
  • I immediately wondered where the retired colors went; turns out they were enshrined in the Crayola Hall of Fame.
  • The color name changes mirror the political climates of the time.

Enjoy, and share any patterns or anomalies you see in these data. I love this stuff.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

11 comments

  1. I'm just guessing, but the Great Depression seems like a perfectly logical time to innovate, when you think about it. Imagine little Shirley tap dancing her way to Daddy Warbucks (I'm mixing and matching my Great Depression symbols here) and asking Daddy to buy a box of crayons. “Harumph!” says Daddy. “You have a perfectly good box of eight crayons here, if you just ignore the broken portions.” But if Shirley asks Daddy to buy the brand new 16 color box – something that they DON'T have in the home – then Daddy may perceive a more urgent need to buy the product. None of those broken crayons in the old crayon box is pink, after all.

  2. Sure, but the Daddy Warbuckses of the World were in the vast minority during the Great Depression. This is all conjecture, but I'm guessing crayons were a luxury item for most, dropping demand. Similarly, Crayola's R&D must have been affected by shrinking operating income.

    Otherwise, one these would have to be false, i.e. demand was steady or higher and/or creating new colors did not significantly impact the bottom line.

    I suppose a third option is that Crayola just innovated altruistically to brighten the color palette of children during bad times. The cynic in me is laughing.

  3. I thought color wasn't invented until the late 1950's/early 1960's when TV and movies became color. 😉

  4. I suppose that would qualify. Although she goes back to black and white in the end, all the happier. I wonder how Kansas feels about that portrayal . . .

  5. Interesting, especially concerning blue as a favorite color, wonder if that's an American thing or if it varies cultural/politically. Fun stuff.

    I keep hearing that people have gone to the Crayola Museum, something that has never occurred to me. Didn't even know they had one until I read that post.

  6. Interesting, especially concerning blue as a favorite color, wonder if that's an American thing or if it varies cultural/politically. Fun stuff.

    I keep hearing that people have gone to the Crayola Museum, something that has never occurred to me. Didn't even know they had one until I read that post.

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