Pantone’s Color(s) of the Year Have a Political Edge


What’s in a shade? If you are Pantone, the “color authority” and the dominant color trend forecaster, and you get to choose a “color of the year” every year, potentially a lot. It could include determining fashion’s direction (these are the hues that inform the fabrics that get bought by designers that get made into your clothes), influencing interiors, and even affecting how food appears. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so much political and philosophical import attached to a color decision as I have for the 2016 “Color of the Year.”

For the first time, it’s a blend of two colors: Rose Quartz (a kind of mineral pink) and Serenity (a light blue). On the company’s website, the colors flow seamlessly into each other so that it’s impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends.

Two colors! It may not sound revolutionary, but everything is relative. And know this: It’s not about indecision, but social progress. That’s Pantone’s position, anyway.

Explaining the choice, the company cited “societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.”

There’s no arguing with that one. From bathroom signs to fashion runways, the gender lines have been blurring at an ever-faster pace. It’s about time we ended ye olde pink/blue, girl/boy stereotype divide.

Admittedly, choosing the most clichéd gender colors can seem a bit simplistic, but Pantone has a broad constituency to manage; this is not about the cutting edge, but the big middle.

Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said the joining of the two colors reflected “a soothing sense of order and peace” — presumably an attractive thing to incorporate into a product at a time of insecurity and global turbulence. It also implies that there is no line between “us” and “them.”

That’s a lot of issue-related messaging to pack into a single color trend (or even two), but the Pantone statement says it’s the company’s job to reflect social trends and capture them in a shade — which will then become part of the fabrics of our lives, as it were.

Certainly, the emails have already started flooding in celebrating various products in shades of Rose Quartz and Serenity. But I wonder: Are we suddenly going to see a host of blended pastel ties, as opposed to the currently popular red and blue, popping up in the next round of presidential debates? Place your bets now.



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