You may be surprised to find out that Pantone does not make paint. Am I the only one who thought that? I was shocked to learn that Pantone is a color solutions company, or as stated on their website, a company that “provides a universal language of color that enables color-critical decisions through every stage of the workflow for brands and manufacturers.” Basically, they have a library of colors that other industries such as fashion, beauty, and architecture use. The Pantone Matching System is a tool that companies in these industries use to maintain consistent color themes throughout their business.
Learning this is even more surprising when I think about how widely-recognizable the name Pantone is among everyday people. They are a Business-to-Business (B2B) company, meaning they sell products to other businesses. They are not consumer-facing (B2C: business to consumer), yet they are known by millions as a true color authority. One example of their consumer popularity is the Pantone "Color of the Year,” an announcement that always gets decent media coverage. Every December, Pantone announces a color of the year meant to symbolize the state of society and culture moving into the new year. The Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute, Kaurie Pressman explains, “The Pantone color of the year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that that color can hope to answer.”
Looking back one year, Pantone chose two colors to represent 2021 called “Illuminating” and “Ultimate Gray”. The color “Illuminating,” described as a cheery butter yellow, was paired with “Ultimate Gray.” At the end of 2020, Pantone backed the pair by explaining the colors are meant to “create an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day.”
After living through 2020, it is easy to understand the reasons behind coupling up this duo. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we need each other. Though solitude is necessary at times, everyone needs a little help and companionship now and again. To be cliche, we’re better together. It’s also important to note that the two swatches are so visually different, which further represents the complicated human experience. There are dull, routine days (Ultimate Gray) and there are bright, happy days (Illuminating). Life will always be a combination of the two.
This year’s color is one of vibrancy, playfulness, and a hint of seriousness. At least, that’s what I see when I look at 2022’s color of the year named “Very Peri”. According to Pantone, the year’s color represents innovation and change. Undoubtedly, part of that change is adapting to a new way of living through a global pandemic. As much as we - or I - like to ignore the subject, there is no denying that we have all gone through a metamorphosis post-March 2020. Pantone has decided to embrace the same newness by creating a brand new color for 2022. In years past Pantone was comfortable selecting a color they already had in their directory of hues. However, this year is different. "Very Peri", or color code 17-3938, did not exist before. Despite its newness, “Very Peri” still conveys some of the same ideas presented in 2021. This single pigment stands for a collaboration of two ideas. Pantone describes “Very Peri” as a “dynamic periwinkle blue hue with a vivifying violet-red undertone” that blends “faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red.” Together they create an “empowering mix of newness,” explains Pantone.
As someone interested in art and design, I analyze Pantone’s "Color of the Year” like a sports fan watching the NFL draft. Much like the promise of a new-fangled NFL career to a talented rookie player, Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement offers us a refreshed lens to look through. In what ways are your end-of-year reflections similar (or dissimilar) to the collective? Did your experiences in the last year align with the same ideas, hopes, dreams, and fears of the societal whole? And looking forward, what values are you holding onto, and what should you let go of? What attitude will guide you as you live out the next 12 months and beyond?
So many questions, sorry about that. I realize not everyone starts the new year off with deep self-reflection like me. But even if you are not that kind of person, I know we still have one thing in common - a psychological sensitivity to color.
The thing about color is that it has so much influence over us and we barely recognize it. Unconsciously, color can determine our mood, emotion, and behaviors. Red can represent feelings of love but it can also signal us to stop, avoid or move away from danger. Pantone’s "Color of the Year” and the layman’s interest in the topic is just another example of how color psychology impacts our way of being. Scholars have theorized on the psychology of color for ages. One of the earliest records of color theory comes from the poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, author of the Theory of Colors (1810), in which he linked red and yellow to emotions of warmth and excitement. In 1942, Psychologist Kurt Goldstein adds that some colors such as red and yellow can evoke systematic physiological reactions and emotional experiences. Since Johann and Kurts' time, we can name quite a few colors that carry certain associations due to the way they have been portrayed in modern culture.
Today, color psychology is often discussed among the many marketing professionals of corporate America. I would know because I am a marketing professional working in corporate America. Being schooled in the art of persuasion (A.K.A advertising), the psychology of color has always fascinated me. The problem is, there is not a lot of scientific research about it to learn from. Britannica explains, “Artists and designers have been studying the effects of colors for centuries and have developed a multitude of theories on the uses of color. The number and variety of these theories demonstrate that no universally accepted rules apply; the perception of color depends on individual experience.”
How then can we study this topic? Pantone, the authority of color appears to have a handle on the concept. Where are their cited sources? I’m not sure who the mastermind behind “Very Peri” is, but I’ll still read about the color’s supposed significance with eyes wide open as if written in my 8th-grade psychology textbook.
How do you interpret “Very Peri”? In what ways does it inspire you? What feelings, thoughts, and memories does it bring? Drop a comment and let us know!