Revealed – Pantone Colours Of The Year

Towards the end of last year, Pantone announced that for 2021, there would be no Colour Of The Year. Instead, there would be two colours - something that the company had only done once in 2016.

If this were any other February, we would be busy discovering the latest furniture designs, interior design trends and trade events. Of course, this is a February like no other. We’re in the middle of what might be the hardest lockdown yet, with the children becoming restless at home and the prevailing winter skies above. It isn’t easy for many of us to feel excited about new trends when life currently feels so introverted.

At the same time, we’re spending so much time indoors, that the way we use our homes has transitioned to a place for everything; work, school, life, childcare, recovery, creativity and exercise. Surely this is the perfect opportunity to understand the way our homes work, or don’t work, for us. For these reasons, the subject of colour psychology, and the ways different shades can influence our wellbeing and mindset, has never been so fascinating. Changing the colours in our homes doesn’t have to take up too much of our already depleted energy levels, but it can significantly impact the way we feel indoors.

When we think of colour, we think of the Pantone Colour Institute – the colour experts who have been announcing the colour of the year every December for the last 21 years. How does Pantone choose the Color of the Year? Well, the selection process includes an in-depth trend analysis. The Pantone Color Institute hunts for new colour influences worldwide, looking at everything from the entertainment industry to art collections and popular travel destinations. They also examine lifestyle changes and current events or socio-economic conditions and emerging technologies.

The chosen colour can then be seen splashed across catwalks, home interiors, buildings industry, product packaging, graphic design and much more throughout the year. The very first colour of the year was Cerulean Blue, a restful sky-blue, in 2000. In 2016, Pantone surprised everyone by choosing two shades – Rose Quartz and Serenity – a gentle mauve-pink and soft blue combination.

Now, for 2021, Pantone has announced a combination of two colours again. PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating work as two independent and opposing colours, but they perfectly support one another when combined. The brightness of the yellow revives the dull, steady, calming grey in a natural way that just makes sense. In return, the grey adds a sense of sophistication and maturity to the yellow, steering the overly optimistic shade into a more palatable direction.

‘Illuminating is a bright, cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity – a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colours of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.’


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It’s not the individual colours themselves but how they create something extraordinary when brought together that perfectly expresses the need for unity in 2021. The finely balanced combination of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating creates a sense of strength and innocent positivity. It tells a story of introverted, deep thoughtfulness with a dash of friendly positivity and hope.

When combined, the colours speak light and dark and the need for balance between the two. You can always find brighter positives in life when things feel grey and gloomy. Whether it’s appreciating the time at home with loved ones to finally having the time to start a personal project, we’ve all gained some benefits from the pandemic. Isn’t that the mindset we’ve forced ourselves to adopt in 2020? Looking for the silver linings to help get us through?


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‘The union of an enduring Ultimate Grey with the vibrant yellow illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.’ – Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute.

Pantone Color Institute sits within Pantone and is responsible for highlighting the top seasonal runway colours, selecting the Pantone Color of the Year, forecasting global colour trends, and advising companies on colour for product and brand visual identity. Using seasonal trend forecasts, colour psychology, and colour consulting, Pantone Color Institute often collaborates with brands worldwide to make use of and celebrate, the power, psychology, and emotion of colour.