Pantone names its 2021 colors of the year, signaling hope in dark times

Trend forecasters have unveiled the color of 2021, and the message is one of optimism. For the 22nd consecutive year of its closely watched marketing stunt, Pantone, a company known best for its color chips, has selected two hues to represent the “meaning of the moment”: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. Announced amid news that a Covid-19 vaccine was finalized, the colors conjure impressions of a departing deep fog or a shock of sunlight on a cloudy afternoon.

“This is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope” said Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said in a statement. The institute researches visual trends and consults companies on how to best optimize their findings.

This is only the second time in its history that two colors have been chosen by Pantone. In 2015, Rose Quartz and Serenity (a pastel pink and tranquil blue) were chosen for 2016. The two colors were represented as a gradient in a nod to the growing recognition of gender fluidity.

The colors of 2021 are intended as a distinct, but complimentary pair. Ultimate Gray, a neutral shade, is the first gray to be recognized with the honor. The Pantone press release described it as akin to earth elements which are “everlasting and provide a firm foundation.” Illuminating, only the second yellow hue chosen in 22 years, was described as “imbued with solar power.”

“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,” said Eiseman.

Pantone’s annal color of the year has historically held sway over trends in the technology, fashion, and design industries. For the 2020 Color of the Year, Pantone chose Classic Blue, a deep—but not gloomy—blue reminiscent of Pepsi cans and blueberries. The color was intended to convey a sense of steadiness at the precipice of a new decade full of unknown challenges.


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