Since 2000, Pantone has been analyzing cultural trends in order to predict what color will be ubiquitous in the art, fashion and design worlds in the coming year. But more recently, the company has hinted that it’s hoping to influence society, too. “The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today,” Pressman explained last year.
Last December, the company selected Ultra Violet, a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade” inspired by Prince and reminiscent of grape soda, as its color of the year for 2018. A company executive noted at the time that the color combined blue and red, “two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed.” For some, the announcement read as a coded call for bipartisanship in a period of political polarization.
Previous announcements have been less subtle: In 2017, the color of the year was Greenery, a bright spring green that Pantone suggested would “provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape.” And the year before that, the color institute chose two colors — a baby blue and a pale pink — citing “societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity.”
Living Coral was chosen because it conveys a sense of optimism. “In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy,” the company explained in a news release, suggesting that the orange-pink hue would offer “comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment."
The tropically inspired color choice also deliberately evokes undersea coral reefs, which are rapidly disappearing because of climate change. Speaking to Quartz, Pressman said that the environment had been the company’s “overriding influence” this year.
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Introducing the Pantone Color of the Year 2019, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral - an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression. #COY2019
Previous years' choices have been somewhat divisive: Ultra Violet, last year’s deep purple selection, was derided by commenters on the home decorating blog Apartment Therapy as “Barney-tastic” and “the absolute ‘it’ color to paint your room in the 6th grade.” As for Greenery, the color of the year for 2017, one interior decorator told The Washington Post that it was “a bit acidic and would not be my choice for a wall color and would be unflattering with some skin tones.”
But the early reaction to Living Coral has been positive so far — Glamour called it a “fantastic makeup shade,” while GQ suggested that the warm, mellow hue “will cheer you up.” The saturated tone complements most skin colors, Fast Company noted, adding that coral invokes 1950s and 1960s Americana “without the patriotic baggage of red, white, and blue.”
Will it solve the problems of the world? Probably not. But, talking to the AP, Pressman described the color as providing a sense of “emotional nourishment.”
“It’s a big hug,” she said.
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