2020's apt pick, Classic Blue, was one experts felt "we can always rely on" in uncertain times

December 09, 2020 12:36 PM
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Pantone, the international authority on color trends, just announced its pick for the 2021 Color of the Year — and there are two hues!

The very neutral "Ultimate Gray" and a sunny yellow hue dubbed "Illuminating" are the colors that the international color forecaster predicts will come to dominate the new year.

In a press release, Pantone explains that Ultimate Gray is meant to evoke "solid and dependable elements, which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation," something we could likely all use after a tumultuous 2020.

Illuminating, on the other hand, looks ahead. It's “a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power," Pantone's experts said.

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The choice of a grayscale color marks the first time Pantone has made an "achromatic" pick. However, it's not the first time the company has crowned two colors. In 2016, Pantone broke the mold and named Rose Quartz, a soft pink, and Serenity, a pale blue.

Pantone predicts its Color of the Year will turn up in all sorts of ways in our daily lives over the next twelve months, from fashion and beauty items to home decor, product packaging and even food.

Credit: Pantone Color Institute

Last year's pick was eerily predictive of where 2020 was heading.

Classic Blue was meant to recall the serene hue of the sky at dusk, and reflect qualities like simplicity and stability, which the forecasters noted were greatly needed at the time. Of course, when they made their announcement in December 2019 they couldn't have known what the next twelve months would hold.

Credit: Pantone

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, at the time.

2019's Color of the Year, Living Coral, was a vibrant orange that Pantone said at the time, “embodies our need for optimism.” It’s also almost exactly opposite 2020's pick on the color wheel. (Orange and blue are complementary.) In 2018, they chose “dramatic and provocative” Ultra Violet and in 2017, it was “fresh and zesty” Greenery.

Most years the announcement draws at least a small backlash from the design community, wary of being pushed beyond what’s considered on-trend and tasteful at the time. Some felt the dual pink and blue winners from 2016, for example, were too evocative of a nursery. The reaction to 2020’s Classic Blue, however, was very neutral, perhaps due to the calming quality the color is meant to evoke.