Pantone reveals two choices for its Colour of the Year 2021

The colour institute has chosen a “pairing” for the first time in its 22-year history – which it says is especially suited to home offices and sportswear.

Pantone has announced two colours of the year for 2021, naming Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and 13-0647 Illuminating as its choices.

The American colour company, which chooses a shade every year, says that the yellow and grey tones create an “aspirational colour pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day”.

pantone colour of the year 2021

Usually the colour institute chooses a single shade for the year ahead, though it chose a blend of Pantone 13-1520 Rose Quartz and 15-3919 Serenity in 2016. This is the first time two independent colours have been picked, which Pantone is calling a “pairing”.

The process – which has been running for 22 years – aims to influence the wider design world, from interiors to industrial design. 2020’s colour of the year was Classic Blue.

pantone colour of the year 2021

According to Pantone executive director Leatrice Eiseman, this year’s choice of two independent colours shows how “different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting”.

She calls the combination “practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic”. “The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” Eiseman adds.

pantone colour of the year 2021

Pantone’s annual choice of colour often relates to world events, and this year’s choice appears to be a reflection of current tumultuous times. “We need to feel encouraged and uplifted,” Eiseman adds. “This is essential to human spirit.”

Pantone vice president Laurie Pressman adds that the colour of the year is a response to “global culture” and can express “what people are looking for that colour can hope to answer”.

Pressman says: “As society continues to recognise colour as a critical form of communication, and way to symbolise thoughts and ideas many designers and brands are embracing the language of colour to engage and connect.”

Where will we see the pairing?

pantone colour of the year 2021

Pantone’s choice is always expected to have some impact on the wider design sector, despite designers’ mixed opinions. This year, the institute points to the pairing’s use in fashion, beauty and home interiors stressing that they do not have to be used in “equal proportions”.

For example, Ultimate Gray could provide a “great bouncing off point” for a scarf, footwear or other fashion accessories, while Illuminating brings in “some brightness”, Pantone says. The combination could also bring “sunshine and positivity” to home furnishings, the company adds.

Pantone says that the yellow shade would be a “warm and welcoming message” if painted on a front door, while the grey tone would create “solid and dependable” exterior finishes.

The choices are an “ideal combination for any office whether in the home or in a commercial space” thanks to Illuminating’s intuition-enhancing quality, Pantone says, which is apt for a time when working from home has become widespread.

Meanwhile the pair also couples well for sports gear, according to Pantone, because of its high visibility contrast.

The pairing will be available to designers as inspiration on digital colour platform Pantone Connect, which rolled out earlier this year, available as a mobile and web app.

What do you think of Pantone’s choice for colour of the year? Let us know in the comments below.

Hide Comments (4)Show Comments (4)
  • Jhonny December 13, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    Boring, uninspired, sick.

  • Pete December 13, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    You have to hand it to Pantone, it’s a great marketing gimmick, erm I mean exercise, to have the audacity to dictate to the rest of us what the colour of the year is. I’m surprised at the gullible people who lap it up.

  • Laura Shepherd December 14, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Are they living on another planet?

    Classic Blue for 2020, when it so clearly should have been brown.

    Yellow has shone so brightly over the last several years, proposing it for the future seems to a retrograde solution for optimism.

    Grey is just an easy cop out.

    Once again, still, brown is the colour of the moment- mother earth, wood, mushrooms, skin tones, chocolate, coffee, nature … luxury.

  • Sonja February 20, 2021 at 12:59 am

    Don/t like it !

  • Post a comment

Latest articles

From the archives: Picture Post

As we head back into our archives, here’s a gem from March 1990. Jane Lewis looks at the creative ways design firms promoted their services through mail-outs.