A single color can tell a million stories. In our daily lives, all of us are surrounded by dozens of shades that come together to make something wonderful. This need not always be an art piece hanging on the walls of a museum. Some days, the magic of colors can be in the form of the simplest things, such as the faded red of an old shirt, or the neon green of glitter sparkling under fluttering eyelashes.
We may not realize it, but each of these colors evokes different emotions in us. The calmness of sea blue makes our hearts steadier, while the earthy tones of moss green are reminiscent of soft forest fields where we can lay our burdens. Thus, the language of colors is important because it can set the mood for our minds and hearts.
Pantone LLC takes this concept to the next level through its business unit, Pantone Color Institute. This is the department that is responsible for highlighting the top seasonal runway colors, advising companies about brand visual identity, and choosing colors for products, while also forecasting global color trends. One such activity includes selecting the Pantone Color of the Year.
What is the Pantone Color of The Year?
Pantone Color of the Year is a process by which a shade is selected to represent the spirit and vibe of the coming year. This is done by observing the color influences over the world, going through areas such as fashion, design, popular travel destinations, films, traveling art collections, socio-economic conditions, etc. The choice of color is based as a result of all these factors and influences many industries such as industrial design, fashion, etc.
The Pantone Color of the Year for 2020 was PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, which ended up being an eerie premonition for the approaching pandemic since that particular shade is used for medical scrubs around the globe. Though blue is usually seen on a positive note, it is also the color of somber contemplation. Blue can also be lonely, such as the infinite hue of the sky stretched over our heads, making us feel small. In a way, 2020 has been lonely for all of us, what with being stuck inside our homes for the majority.
These are the conditions that had to be taken into consideration while choosing the Pantone Color of the Year 2021. With how heavy this year has been, choosing a single shade as a doorway to a newer and hopefully brighter year, was inevitably difficult. This is why the Pantone Color Institute did not end up choosing a single Pantone Color of The Year 2021. Instead, the choice was of two Pantone Colors of The Year for 2021: PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating.
The former is a sturdy shade of grey, while the latter a vibrant shade of yellow. Pantone felt that choosing such a combination was the most fitting to send a message of hope.
This is only the second time that Pantone has chosen two colors of the year in the last couple of decades. The previous time was in 2016 when PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz and PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity were chosen as Pantone’s Color of the Year. This shows how deliberate this choice must have been and how we need a mix of these two colors to move onto a newer, fresher year.
Ultimate Gray: The pillar of fortitude
At first glance, this shade of gray might seem dull and sad. But there is a reason as to why it was chosen as one of Pantone Color of the Year. Gray might not be bright or traditionally hopeful, but gray is resilient. It is the color of the clouds which carry the weight of monsoon and the color of cement which holds our homes together. Gray is sturdy and stubborn, it stands even in the face of peril.
While it may feel nice to live in one’s dreams and hopes, that will not prove fruitful unless efforts are put in to make it a reality. And efforts mean hard work, which is seldom beautiful in an aesthetic sense. Hard work is gritty, dirty, and dull, just as the shade of gray dust that stains our hands and hearts at the end of a tough day. Gray means hard work, it means practicality, it is the base on which we can build our hopes and dreams.
Gray is also important as a Pantone Color of the Year 2021 because it represents all the stress and difficulties we have had to endure in 2020. As much as we may want to move onto a new year, that can’t be done unless we accept all that had come with the previous year. We need to accept the existence of the pandemic and its consequences so that we can remember to be kinder to ourselves and those around us next year because we all do deserve it.
In order to live a new day, we need to acknowledge all the hurt and laughter and tears of the day before that. It is only through this that we can learn the lessons needed and move ahead stronger, smarter, and braver.
Illuminating: The vibrancy of hope
Illuminating adds a ray of sunshine to the combination of Pantone Color of The Year for 2021. Illuminating is a bright, hopeful shade of yellow that automatically reminds you of warm sunny days filled with light that drips over your fingers, soft and gentle like honey. Illuminating is the color of the courage that keeps you going through your difficult days, making you look forward to tomorrow, anyway.
Illuminating reminds us that it is not enough to just put in efforts if you don’t have hope to go along with them. Hopeless efforts are futile because a part of you has given up even before you start. There needs to be a belief in a brighter tomorrow, a belief that this hard work will be rewarded, the belief that you are deserving of good things.
Yellow might not make us think of self-love, but it does bring a sense of self-belief. And isn’t having hope and believing in oneself another form of self-love? Illuminating represents the part of us that has been holding onto happiness for the entirety of this year, the part that can’t wait to burst into full bloom the next year, no matter what it has to face.
Though Illuminating might not seem as solemn and steady as Ultimate Gray, it is a kind of courage in itself. Illuminating stays bright, no matter what happens around it. It is a color that endures, in its own way. It is the color that remembers the little glimmering rays on a rainy day, the little joys in an expanse of despair. It is the color that stays through every sadness, every season, and still looks forward to happiness. Just that in itself is perhaps one of the bravest things.
Illuminating is the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the breath of fresh air and relaxation after all the time spent indoors. It is the sun that has been waiting to greet us all these months when we were inside.
Together they give us a resilient optimism
Ultimately, the magic of Pantone Color of the Year is incomplete without either of these two. In the same way, we cannot enter 2021 without both of the emotions carried inside these shades. After all, the light shines the brightest in a dark room and flowers grow the tallest only on solid ground.
We cannot go on with belief unless we are holding it in stained hands that have faced reality and accepted it. Things never get better in the blink of an eye. Positive change needs time and patience, it needs endurance to not give up halfway through.
Ultimate Gray, strong and steady, makes the reliable pillar that helps us reach the bright sun. Illuminating, vibrant and optimistic, represents the silver lining over the gray cloud. Together, they help us build hope with our efforts and carry this hope with us into the next year.