Pantone Releases Color(s) of the Year for 2021—And They're All About Being Optimistic

Courtesy Pantone

The selected hues are the antithesis of a dark 2020.

Everyone is trying to make next year better and brighter than this one. While the medical field is hastily working on a vaccination plan, Pantone is using its expertise to bring hope. How? The American color company just announced its color of the year for 2021 and actually chose two this time to represent what's in store: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.

Courtesy Pantone

The bright yellow is supposed to be emblematic of the "optimistic promise of a sunshine-filled day", while softer gray is about "composure, steadiness, and resilience." Then the combination of the two shades is meant to help people "fortify themselves with energy, clarity, and hope."

"It's a combination that speaks to the resilience, the optimism and hope, and positivity that we need, as we reset, renew, reimagine and reinvent," vice president of the Pantone Color Institute Laurie Pressman said in a video conference.

Executive director Leatrice Eiseman added, "The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting." 

Related: Dreamy Destinations to See 'Classic Blue'—Pantone's 2020 Color of the Year

These color choices are unique for a variety of reasons. It's the first time an achromatic shade was chosen, and only the second time two colors were picked for the color of the year. The last time that occurred was in 2016 when Rose Quartz and Serenity were paired together as a gradient. And we've only seen one other optimistic yellow (Mimosa) selected during the 2009 economic crisis. Again, it was to incite a sense of hope. 

Last year Classic Blue was the pick to symbolize reassurance as we headed into a new decade. "In retrospect, now we look back at it and think, 'Well, that was a fortuitous choice for the year,'" Eiseman said of the pre-COVID choice.

Anima Fotografie/Courtesy Pantone

Overall, the goal of the Color of the Year is to engage people in a conversation about current events using color. The choices are not based on data but rather on the societal and emotional draw.

Related: The Color Connoisseur’s Guide to Kaleidoscopic Home Decor

"What are we looking for? What do we need? And what are the psychological characteristics of that color that can give us what we're looking for?" Pressman said. "This year, you can't get away from the overwhelming influence of the pandemic."