Something bright, something dull: Pantone picks 2 colors for 2021

If everything that has happened and still happening in 2020—a year most of us thought of “fresh start,” of “clear vision”—is any indication, we know by now that we know nothing.

Who would have thought 2020 would be a year of chaos, of one bad news after the other, of days seemingly blurring into one another, of a year marked by a global health crisis?

Trend forecaster Pantone Color Institute picks two colors for 2021—a 'dependable' shade of gray and a 'positive' yellow—in a bid to convey a message of optimism supported by fortitude. (Photos from Pantone)

Also, who could have guessed it would be a year when blue surgical masks and blue medical scrubs would become a ubiquitous sight?

Oh right, Pantone sort of did.

However, when the trend forecaster chose Classic Blue as the Color of the Year for 2020, it was meant to instill “calm, confidence, and connection,” or the three things we don’t have right now.

A year that was forecasted to be calm has been filled with stress and anxiety, confidence is trumped by insecurity, and connection has been bogged down by disconnect and separation. Although one can argue that we made a different kind of connection this year, perhaps with those close to us as we isolate from the rest of the world, or the one we have with ourselves).

For 2021, Pantone Color Institute picked two contrasting yet complementary colors, the second time it selected two in its 22-year history (the first time was Rose Quartz and Serenity for 2016).

Gray and yellow worn together.
The 2021 Colors of the Year, Ultimate Gray (a mid-tone gray) and Illuminating (a bright, saturated yellow) seem to encapsulate the overarching theme of 2020: dull but fueled by hope. But Pantone, whose forecasts influence product development and decision in fashion, home, and industrial design, wishes to send a message of “happiness supported by fortitude.”

The pairing, Pantone said, also “highlights our innate need to be seen, to be visible, to be recognized, to have our voices heard.”

The neutral gray, which the forecasters liken to “the colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time,” is a dependable shade that “quietly assures” and encourages composure, steadiness, and resilience, or the three things necessary for us to survive this year and step into the next.

Much like how a pop of yellow in interior awash with gray adds dimension and life to the whole place, Illuminating aims to be the spark of hope in the combination.

The use of yellow in neutral, modern minimalist interior design brings a pop of life and character into the space.
“The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” explained Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of Pantone Color Institute.

Eiseman added, “Practical and rock solid, but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.”

Gray and yellow—like the light at the end of this dark tunnel we all wish to see next year.

Topics: Pantone Color Institute , 2021 Colors of the Year , Ultimate Gray , mid-tone gray , vibrant yellow Illuminating , bright saturated yellow)
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