Why I Hate Pantone Colour of the Year
It’s that most wonderful time of the year once again – you know December, the month Pantone announces its colour of the year. Just like a child at Christmas, the big announcement is something I anticipate and look forward to. It is something we discuss in our cosy Interior Design studio here in Leicester, months in advance. Turns out Creed Design's prediction of Surgical Mask Blue #2975 was way out and instead PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating are paving the way for 2021. So - my reaction to yesterday’s big announcement? Quite literally a yawn.
2020 has been a hell of a year so I understand why they decided to choose two colours. Yes, Grey and Yellow do work well together, but heck everyone knows that, even my five-year-old niece knows that (although she would chuck in a few sequins and googly eyes to add a bit of excitement).
Looking a little deeper (well checking out the pantone website) I am told that this choice is “A marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting”. Suddenly I feel for the designers and forecasters tasked with this prediction, they too are very likely to have had a hell of a year. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been impacted in some way by COVID 19 and to use colour as a message of hope, well that appeals to my designer and humanist brain. However, I am still disappointed and underwhelmed by their selection, then the realisation hits me, I feel this way every year.
Colour is incredibly important to me personally and something I have always loved. As a young art student standing in a gallery in Paris, I was moved to tears to see the colour use in a Bonnard painting (might not have had much sleep the night before). I love looking for colour inspiration in art, nature, fashion and everyday life. I’m also known to saviour and stroke new paint charts when they arrive at the studio.
As Interior Designers, colour is one of the foundation elements of our creative projects. We spend much time individually and as a team considering, debating and rearranging palettes until we get exactly the right mix. Our choices can dramatically change the atmosphere of an environment and the mood of its users, it is a responsibility we take seriously. Designing a room and considering how colour will work in various quantities, on different textures and in changing light requires vision, confidence and experience.
So, I have come to realise that a colour of the year is a flawed concept. A colour doesn’t work in isolation, it is its relationship with light and the other colours that surround it that makes it what it is. As individuals we will perceive colours differently and subjectively. We can be standing next to each other (2m apart) in the same space and I could see blue and you see green. Our differing experiences and cultures means that our emotional response to a colour is as individual as our DNA. Pantone creates brilliant tools to enable designers and artists to be exacting in their creative vision, but all things considered how can it choose just one or two colours to sum up the mood of humankind. Our unique view point and colour perception make this an impossible challenge and this is why I hate Pantone Colour of the Year – and also why I’m already intrigued by their 2022 announcement.