Water Cooler: Pantone Announces Its 2021 Color(s)
of the Year


Mika Baumeister  /  Unsplash.com


Pantone has announced its Color of the Year for 2021, with two contrasting hues selected specifically as an ode to the trials and tribulations of the past year. A bold shade, PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is a bright, uplifting yellow, and it’s paired with PANTONE 17-5104, a neutral, dependable medium-gray shade. The Pantone Color Institute, which predicts which color(s) we’re likely to see being used in marketing, apparel, home goods and everything else for that year, describes the colors selected for 2021: “A message of happiness supported by fortitude, the combination of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating is aspirational and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter—this is essential to the human spirit.”

Drawing on the complex and worrisome challenges of 2020, Pantone says that Illuminating is a saturated shade representing cheerfulness and the warmth of sunshine; a bright light signifying the search for clarity, optimism and sparkle in one’s life journey and moving past uncertainties. Ultimate Gray represents the solid, sensible and reliable foundation needed to navigate one’s life quest, drawing influences from weathered, natural elements, like beach pebbles, and encouraging feelings of serenity, stability and hardiness. Pantone says, “Emboldening the spirit, the pairing of PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 highlights our innate need to be seen, to be visible, to be recognized, to have our voices heard.”

The last time Pantone announced two colors was the first-ever time the company veered from its one-color focus, with the selection of PANTONE 13-1520 Rose Quartz and PANTONE 15-3919 Serenity in 2016. Differing sharply from the dual color choice of 2021, the pairing was inspired by growing gender fluidity in fashion, and the search for mindfulness and wellbeing to mitigate stress. In 2020, Pantone’s Color of the Year was PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, a stimulating shade made to inspire feelings of confidence and connection while entering a new decade.


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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