Pantone, the world’s authority on color, has a long-standing tradition of analyzing trends and reviewing insights to determine what the Color of the Year (COTY) will be for the year ahead. This grand announcement stirs up excitement in some and a nonchalant reaction in others (if any at all). There’s no telling how or if we will see this color infused into our world in the upcoming year, or how it will trickle into the years to come. We’re personally willing to bet the latest Pantone COTY will make an appearance across various different industries in 2018.
We take in thousands of images every day. The COTY campaign aims to heighten our awareness in a world filled with visuals and color. Undoubtedly, Pantone has created a brilliant marketing maneuver to remain relevant in a fast-paced world of thumb-scrolling and has successfully developed a way to gain a competitive edge in their industry. Let’s take a look at the 2018 COTY Ultra Violet and see who really cares about Pantone’s predictions.
Who (or what) is Pantone?
Originally a mid-century printing company, Pantone was purchased in the 60s by Lawrence Herbert who introduced a color swatch book known as the Pantone Matching System. It provided reference colors to ensure that colors matched from one print job to another. Pantone eventually established a division known as The Pantone Color Institute, a global color consultancy and the self-proclaimed “world-renowned authority on color”.
The Color Institute forecasts global color trends and advises companies on color in brand identity and product development, for the application of color as a brand asset.
Because, after all, color as a visual brand language is a big part of our everyday lives. Take, for example, Tiffany & Co’s unmistakable hue of blue. While this color was selected by Tiffany founder Charles Lewis TIffany more than 100 years before Pantone existed, the two powerhouses began working together in 2001 “…when they approached us to standardize their iconic shade to ensure that no matter where you were in the world, or the medium the color was reproduced in, it would be instantly recognizable. The custom color we created for Tiffany is called “1837 Blue.” -Laurie Pressman, VP, Pantone Color Institute
Other colors you’d be hard-pressed to separate from their associated brands:
- UPS brown
- Post-it yellow
- Virgin Atlantic red
Annually since 2000, a single color is crowned “Pantone Color of the Year” and while some folks lose their shit, it’s relevant to, oh, 1% of the world. More on that later.
The Pantone Forecast
While COTY may make waves in more marketable ways (like a JCPenny collab with products available in Pantone shades), Pantone actually makes three major color announcements every year. The color of the year, spring fashion reports, and fall fashion reports.
The colors are chosen by a committee who meet twice a year in Europe.
The committee is a diverse group of (probably fabulous!) spies who travel the world observing average people and their attitudes towards life, politics, street fashion and beauty trends in addition to influences in industries like fashion, film, technology and art. They then meet in a blank white room where each member presents their suggestions and proof-points for the colors they think will best represent the world in the coming year.
Fun fact: A consultant for Pantone recalled seeing a designer handbag in emerald. She noticed the distinctive green popping up on fashion runways and elsewhere. So while emerald was already gaining traction as a designer color, Pantone announced emerald as the color for 2013.
When Pantone presents their COTY choices, they describe the philosophy behind their choices in terms of their observation of the world – a color-coded State of the Union, if you will. (image: quote graphic)
Ultra Violet for 2018
This social commentary using color can feel spot-on. 2017 was a calm green. An invitation to take a deep cleansing breath after a rough year in politics and society. This year’s choice is a bold, complicated color mixing blue and red, two shades that are seemingly opposed, to create something entirely new. Ultra Violet is one of the most complex colors and we can take this as an invitation to jump back in, larger than life. Take the bull by the horns and get our asses in gear for the complex year ahead.
We’re totally on board with this choice at Laughing Samurai. In fact, we could have seen it coming. Significant references of the hue were popping up in pop culture all year have been pointing to this. Hillary’s purple pantsuit when she conceded the election. Prince’s Purple Rain posthumous release. Stunning portions of Katy Perry’s Witness Tour which saw whole arenas turned into mesmerizing violet galaxies.
So now you know the story…you may be asking “who cares?” Pantone COTY is widely an industry-relevant invention. But what industries?
COTY is most noteworthy for fashion designers and all that flows from those trends (interiors, aesthetics in consumer technology products, automotive). Remember that iconic scene from The Devil Wears Prada? While screenwriter Aline McKenna has been clear that the “facts” in that scene were made up, Pantone’s very first color of the year (2000) was, in fact, Cerulean. As Miranda Priestly scathingly schools Andie to think twice about being flippant with her relationship with fashion and consequently, color, she presents an excellent case study in how Pantone’s COTY truly does affect the average Joe (or Jo!).
And the average Joe, in turn, affects the COTY. Pantone’s choice is a self-feeding cycle both affecting and affected by current trends. It is both a commentary on the state of the world and an influencer for the year to come. Displaying both philosophical and commercial values in the same breath.
While, in terms of commercial value, COTY is a forecast which mainly affects fashion, we see how fashion affects downstream industries like aesthetics in technology, interiors, beauty, etc. We asked interior designer Shawna Percival of Styleberry Creative to share with us how she sees the fashion people wear and fashion people live in as cross-pollinating industries. She told us, “Consistent taste is found in both interiors and fashion, both in color selection and patterns that we’re drawn to. If I have a client who is struggling to connect to a color palette, we always head right to their closet—as that is the first place I will look to see if there is a clear indication of color preferences, and usually, there is! Odds are, they’ll love living in a space styled with the same colors they’re drawn to wearing; the industries are certainly intertwined more than we may realize.”
Does COTY affect graphic design? Yes and no. Design is about problem-solving. Sometimes, we pick a color because the project calls for accessibility (ex: colorblindness). Or we utilize certain colors to evoke a mood. Sometimes the brand wants to ‘own’ a color like Tiffany & Co. And sometimes, the challenge calls for something that’s simply trendy. Will a design using COTY end up looking dated? Eventually, yes. Will a designer make it big time by focusing too much on someone else’s vision of what’s groundbreaking? Probably not. In fact, as graphic designers, we may stay away from the current trendy thing because some projects call for an approach which ensures that the lasting effect is evergreen and future proof.
We live in a colorful world. When you glance around your immediate surroundings, you are engulfed by strategically thought out color choices, some the result of countless production meetings and grueling hours hunched over a color palette. What Pantone aims to do with their Color of the Year is provide inspiration to creative thinkers, and ignite both industry professionals and passionate novices to infuse their lives, work and art with color. It brings awareness to the power of color by encapsulating the mood of the global culture and discovering a shade to represent who we are each year. Regardless if you keep up with trends, the Pantone COTY selections are sure to influence the signs, advertisements, web designs and product labels you encounter on a daily basis. Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement may not dictate trends across industries, but the statement is sure to leave an impact – like any great marketing should.