Aug 23, 2021 By Sumara Fireside
Color Impact: Visual Touchstones in Design
IIDA Creative Director, Sumara Fireside looks at the 2021 and 2022 Pantone Colors of the Year, exploring their appeal and emotional impact.
By Sumara Fireside Aug 23, 2021
Published in

Color experts at the Pantone Color Institute have made their most anticipated annual announcement—the forthcoming color of the year. Each year they set out on a mission to “Provide a universal language of color that enables color-critical decisions through every stage of the workflow for brands and manufacturers.” Inspired by trend analysis, popular culture, art, fashion, design, lifestyle as well as socio-economic decisions, it was announced that instead of one color, 2021 was going to have two.

PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray, and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating (right).

In choosing these two colors, Pantone states "As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity, and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality. Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power, and Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation quietly assuring, and encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.”

In other words, 2020 was a tough and complicated year. And those two colors can help us feel grounded, while also hopeful—reflecting as Pantone suggests, warmth and dependability. The colors are meant to reflect our collective experience, but most importantly, to inspire what happens next.

Designers know there is so much more to color than the yearly trends, gender, age, cultural backgrounds, and biological factors mean that we all experience color in a different way—color is personal, physical, and emotional. Color evokes something inside us all differently, in ways that translate to an experience.

Yellow, as Pantone's Illuminating, is more than just cheerful. Depending on the year you were born, it could conjure up an image from the year 1963: the smiley face, originally designed for State Mutual Life Assurance Company by graphic designer Harvey Ball to create a morale booster for employees that has become part of the fabric of American culture. And for younger generations that color may be associated with emojis. Either way yellow can be perceived as negative or positive, depending on how an individual makes those associations, and can affect how we “feel” about yellow beyond just how an object mixes with color.

2022 Pantone Colors of the Year, Ultimate Grey, and Illuminating. Image courtesy of Pantone.
2022 Pantone Colors of the Year, Ultimate Grey, and Illuminating. Image courtesy of Pantone.

And while we have just enough time to take that all in, consider Orchid Flower, named Colour of the Year for 2022 by trend forecasters and colour experts WGSN + Coloro. A vibrant rose hue with purple undertones, "Orchid Flower is intense, hyper-realistic and stimulating, making it a color that stands out in both digital and physical environments," this is a color that conveys the feeling of positivity and escapism."

And while color conveys it also connects. And no matter what the trend forecast may say, as humans we are wired for connections, and the more we can connect, the better it makes us feel. We look forward to seeing the colors in partnership reflected in the design choices across graphics, fashion, product design, and of course interiors (and beyond) over the next year as a visual touchstone for us all.

Color Resources:
Pantone Color of the Year: https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2021

Coloro + WGSN Colour of the Year 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUQCIZblSRk

What is Color Theory: https://xd.adobe.com/ideas/process/ui-design/what-is-color-theory/

Helping Organizations Design with Color: https://lovegoodcolor.com/

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