Pantone Colors of the
Year 2021

04/01/2021



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It seems that every company, business and individual is doing all they can to begin 2021 with a fresh mindset and new outlook. In addition to this, at the top of the to-do list is “forget 2020 ever happened,” but Pantone decided to take a different approach stepping into the new year. Pantone dedicates months of time to travel the world and discover which colors are increasing in popularity and uses this research to inform the color palette for the following year. As 2020 was full of unconventional events that could never have been foreseen, Pantone decided on two colors that will relate the uncertainty of 2020 to the new beginnings in 2021.

Traditionally, Pantone picks one color for the calendar year, but this year they decided to pick two colors that are independent yet complement each other. The colors of 2021 are Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.

The responses to this year’s color choices were varied. At first, they seemed like a just another gray and an ordinary honeybee yellow. But upon further examination and hearing Pantone’s reasoning, there’s something inviting about the combination in particular. With a quick google search on the new colors, it’s easy to see that they have already been used effectively together in architecture, fashion and design.

One might ask, “why would we need another gray?” While grays can seem lackluster generally, the fine art world uses them expertly to create depth and interest. The addition of any one gray to a line drawing will give it a whole new dimension. In a still life drawing, a gray background can root the subject in reality while a blank paper background can leave a piece looking unfinished. Ultimate Gray is an ambiguous shade that allows the viewer to interpret its meaning for themselves. It is not dark enough to allude to negative emotions and is not light enough to be confused with shades of white. Pantone explains that Ultimate Gray represents resilience and strength which is fitting for this past calendar year. They explained the beauty of natural elements that have been weathered and changed by this earth yet still stand firm and use these experiences to be strong and beautiful. It is the color of wisdom and intelligence; and the ultimate neutral color that one can depend on.

Illuminating is a bright shade of yellow, but not a shade of yellow that is blinding and overwhelming. Illuminating is warm and filled with compassion. Illuminating is inspiring and transformative. This color is reminiscent of sunshine and smiley faces. It is Pantone’s color to inspire people with vivacity this coming year. A “light at the end of the tunnel” after a year of unknown.

Pantone could have easily picked just one color for 2021, but they were thoughtful in choosing this pair to create a statement and take a step forward. There is no secret political standpoint or plot behind the colors chosen, but instead, the goal is to inspire the minds of others to resettle, press forward into 2021 and pay homage to all that occurred in 2020. Here at J.O., we look forward to seeing how these colors are portrayed in 2021 and how we can carry this same perspective with us throughout the coming months.

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