What Pantone’s Colors of the Year Mean to 2016

February 2, 2016 / Graphic Design & Branding

In December of 2015, Pantone released its 2016 Color of the Year to the world. For the first time ever, two colors were chosen: Rose Quartz and Serenity.

What exactly is Pantone, and why does it matter?

The “authority on color, provider of color systems and leading technology for accurate communication of color” invented the Pantone Matching System (PMS), a system for matching colors, used in specifying printing inks. This system provides reference colors that are used to ensure that colors chosen match from one print job to another industry-wide.

The first PMS guide debuted in 1963, and the system is now known around the world as the most accurate color-matching system available. What started with 10 colors has now evolved into 1,114 spot colors. Pantone used its stellar reputation as an expert on color to launch the Pantone Color of the Year campaign in the year 2000. These colors are said to represent and influence fashion and design trends in the coming year.

Never before have two colors been named as Color of the Year. At first glance, these two colors seem distinctively opposite, as they provoke gender-related thoughts. These soft pastels remind us of boys (blue) and girls (pink). But why is that?

The media and outside influences have led us to associate different colors with certain qualities and characteristics.

Believe it or not, pink was associated with masculinity just a century ago, and blue was considered more feminine.

Pink, a shade of red, was considered “fierce” and “aggressive“, and therefore was associated with men. Meanwhile, blue was considered “pretty” and “dainty“, and has long been associated with the Virgin Mary.

For 2016, Pantone chose these colors to represent “gender neutrality”. The soft baby-like hues also bring a sense of calm and peace to the viewer. To quote Pantone (through Wired):

Globally, we are experiencing gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted color trends throughout all other areas of design. This more unilateral approach to color is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumers’ increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage that challenge traditional color associations.

It will be interesting to see how 2016 plays out, and just how much Pantone’s choice in colors influence the world. I know I’m wondering how they’ll top this for 2017.

Interested in what colors mean or portray? Looking for help in deciding what color to choose for a logo, a sign, a printed piece or promotional product? Give us a call and speak to one of our marketing team’s graphic design experts, and learn what color is best-suited for your business, and why.