Pantone’s Color of the Year is… two colours

This time last year, the Pantone Color Institute predicted “classic blue” as the colour of 2020, describing it as a colour that brings a “sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge.” Okay, so maybe it will do better this year.

On Wednesday, the Institute named its colour of the year for 2021—though this year its actually two colours: PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray, and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating.

The Pantone Color Institute, which among other things helps brands identify colour trends for their design strategies, says the colour of the year is based on thoughtful consideration and analysis by its experts, who scour the globe for trends emerging in everything from art, fashion and entertainment, to sports and social media and the effects of socio-economic conditions.

So why two colours this year? Pantone says they combine to tell one story of “strength and positivity.” In other words, trends and patterns from the year that was paint a picture of such complexity that two colours were needed to truly encapsulate the emerging zeitgeist.

Ultimate Gray is not a grey of clouds or dreary skies, says Pantone, but a grey that “quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.” Think of pebbles on a beach and other natural elements that “stand the test of time” (read: yeah it’s been a bonkers year, but you can handle 2021).

More obviously, illuminating is about aspiration and hope. “We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter—this is essential to the human spirit,” said Pantone. In other words, the sun will come out, if not tomorrow, then at some point in 2021.

“The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one.”

David Brown