Pantone chooses pandemic colours for 2021

For the second time, Pantone has announced that it had chosen not one, but two colours of the year. For 2021, the colour authority has selected Ultimate Gray (PANTONE 17-5104) and Illuminating (PANTONE 13-0647). These two colours are a combination of dull, familiar gray and the bright yellow of lemon skin.

“It’s a dependable gray,” as Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told the New York Times.

This year’s selections are a choice for the past year of quarantine, a time in which we had to isolate ourselves from the world and curl up in our monochrome blankets at home. The grey and yellow shades each work as stand-alone colours, however, they also complement each other beautifully when paired together. The yellow specifically evokes brighter days ahead.

PANTONE Ultimate Gray & PANTONE Illuminating

“Practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”

Although the 2021 pandemic colours denote hope and stability, I’m not sure we can count on them to predict the future. Take the 2020 Colour of the Year, Classic Blue. At the time of the announcement, the deep blue hue was trumpeted as a symbol for protection, stability, peace, and confidence — and we know how that went.

However, after a tough year of sheltering in place, will homeowners who are spending money on home upgrades in place of movies, trips and dining out adopt the optimistic colour palette? Some designers think so.

In fact, Houzz senior editor Mitchell Parker said the home remodelling and design platform has long embraced the colour pairing. “Because a bright yellow colour can sometimes be overwhelming in large doses, we typically see homeowners use just a small splash of it with larger swaths of gray to make a strong visual statement.”

Selecting 2021’s pandemicolours of the year

Pantone’s ability to forecast colour trends is a marketing force that helps furniture, textile, fashion, accessory and technology designers choose designs from season to season. Yet, the pandemic even affected the process of selecting this year’s colour, as well.

Pantone pandemic colours of the year for 2021

While the researchers at the institute usually spend the year traveling to research colour trends around the world before making their choice, the health and safety restrictions surrounding COVID-19 meant their approach this year looked a little different — more collaboration online and a reliance on local staffers worldwide to report on trends. But the goal in selecting the colour of the year remains the same as in past years: to reflect the culture of the moment of time we’re living in. 

So regardless, expect retailers, designers and fashion brands to soon flood our inboxes with gray and yellow toothbrushes and swimsuits; nail polish and exterior paint options.