Pantone – Color(s) of the Year?

Here in the D&D store and design studio, we recently got into the discussion about “colors of the year”, and specifically the company known for debuting them right before the calendar flips over each year — Pantone.  So we asked ourselves — How do they choose them?  Are we and/or our clients, utilizing them in any projects at all?  I mean, is there any relevancy when it comes to the real design world?

[Pantone is the authority. Let’s put it this way — Actual COUNTRIES refer to them when choosing colors for their flags.]

As you can imagine, a fun & lively discussion ensues whenever someone pops loaded questions like these around here.  The answers are a mixed bag, and our designers expressed their own opinions, along all points of the spectrum.  Let’s talk about it.

The last question, ‘Why?’ is easy — to generate conversation (which definitely worked!) and recognition for Pantone, who have put themselves at the forefront of the color world and assumed the lead in broaching the subject.  Pantone, which surprisingly just started the annual tradition at the turn of this century (2000 was the first year… and of course you’re going to ask, so it was Cerulean Blue;), has no doubt put in the time and research of knowing all about Color.  They pretty much boast the largest color wheel ever (fact!).  

For example, if you have ever flipped thru one of their paint-chip fan decks, it is rather remarkable — ‘is this color blue or purple?’… ‘is that a pale yellow or khaki?’… ‘how many fire-engine reds do you really need to choose from??’  Questions like these pop into the minds of color enthusiasts & professionals everywhere.  

[Fun fact:  When the company first began, it primarily printed samples for cosmetics companies.]

So HOW are they chosen?  Well, funny you should ask.  There is indeed a thesis behind each company/executive decision.  Let’s go back to the year 1999, when Pantone was introducing the whole COTY idea for the new millennium.  Their reasoning was that 2000 would usher in a new era of…… wait for it…… World Peace.

“Psychologically, gazing at a blue sky brings a sense of peace and tranquillity to the human spirit,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Sky blue is imprinted in our psyches as a retiring, quiescent color. Surrounding yourself with Cerulean blue could bring on a certain peace because it reminds you of time spent outdoors, on a beach, near the water – associations with restful, peaceful, relaxing times. In addition, it makes the unknown a little less frightening because the sky, which is a presence in our lives every day, is a constant and is always there. That’s the dependability factor of blue.”

Man!  We genuinely applaud the vision & idealism.  To give them due credit, they also tempered this with a mindfulness of the water issues we could well be facing as a result of human pollution and consumption in the 21st century.  Hey, we can all dream and still be realists too, right?

Judging from the research we did on this subject, there is a digestive process involved upon introduction of each annual color.  It is first collectively viewed and accepted by the masses through a “power of suggestion” design campaign launched by Pantone, intended to inspire new uses for the specific shade.  (This is also greatly aided with the advent of subjects/topics “going viral” and quickly uploading to an iPhone near you.)  They will also throw in a dash of familiarity by showcasing existing or traditional ways of implementing the color.

It is therefore almost a “chicken-or-the-egg” scenario where you are left wondering if they influenced you, or the other way around.  An interesting paradox that will leave you debating for the next 30 seconds or so, but we digress.  (How, about that power of suggestion, huh??)

It essentially takes a few years before the chosen colors fully circulate and reemerge “household popularitywise”, but the influence sure enough spreads.  If visual repetition & recognition occur due to a color being deemed important, businesses and consumers both take notice.

[Above picture is intended to be funny… but true!]

So the answer is YES… we have already used this color before, whichever it may be (and we could be helping to set the trend in a Jungian ‘unconsciously-aware’ sort ‘o way) and yes, we will most likely be using these colors again.  We are diverse and open-minded, what can we say? 

To get back to basics, we can explain our own D&D mindsets and methods in a practical way.  We totally are believers in colors evoking certain feelings or emotions, similar to the seasons changing.  Oranges & reds are warm (and some who paint their kitchens or dining rooms believe they encourage “appetite”).  Yellow is cheerful and energizing.  Green is soothing, and sometimes refreshing, while symbolizing Nature.  White is clean and pure, etc.  However, one of Don & Fiona’s angles is that no one should necessarily “buy-in” to another person’s ideas just for popularity’s sake.  Similar to art, we always want to leave room for interpretation with our clients.  We encourage doing exactly that which inspires and feels good to you!  We all have our own stories & connections to colors… it is simply our job to help you paint that picture!

[Dwelling & Design Store Showroom – Easton, MD]

For the record, the 2016 Colors of the Year are Rose Quartz and Serenity (of course tying-in with their pursuit & wishes of tranquility).  Hey, when your entire world is literally a rainbow, who can blame Pantone for always working towards a pot of gold?


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