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Pantone picks Ultimate Gray and Illuminating as colors of the year for 2021

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The world’s ever trusty color authority, Pantone, has announced two hues for this year --meet Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating.

Color Symbol

The combination of two unrelated colors makes a strong statement. With the world

facing uncertainty following the COVID-19 pandemic, the color institute said that

choosing the two colors signifies the people's feelings during challenging times.

The former represents the practical, resilient mindset demanded by the pandemic,

while its chirpier counterpart expresses optimism for the future.

A “marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both

enduring and uplifting,” Ultimate Gray and Illuminating sunny yellow each serve a

specific purpose. It’s a "message of happiness supported by fortitude, aspirational,

and gives us hope. We need to feel that everything is going to get brighter – this is

essential to the human spirit," Pantone said on its website.


The goal in selecting the color of the year remains the same as in past years: to

reflect the culture of the moment of time we’re living in. In this context, it’s to sum

up the gloom of 2020 and the hope of the year ahead. This color trend forecast is

first and foremost for us the consumers, which means that it’s intended to be used

for our daily life and grind. With Pantone’s announcement last December 10, people

have started to look into how it can be incorporated into all aspects of society:

design, fashion, and social media.

Photo by Garett Sears via Unsplash


Ultimate Gray can be used in exteriors, as it is emblematic of solid elements which provide a firm

foundation to buildings and houses. On the other hand, bright and sunny Illuminating interior design

elements can boost light indoors. Together, the two independent colors support each other and create

an aspirational and hopeful color pairing for the both residential and retail.

Ceramicist and designer Jonathan Adler immediately picked up on Pantone’s message, calling the pairing a “pleasing, soothing, soft, and pretty combination”. Adler quips that no matter who we are or where we stand, we are all “looking for a soft landing from the cultural battles of the last several years and the gloom of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soft gray with light yellow feels like morning.”


The pair has a direct fashion association. Nordic

fashion has been in fashion since last year. People, especially those working from home, started literally living in achromatic sweaters and pants 24/7. We know that they haven’t given up on fashion yet, but the point is that we have all learned to be okay with them because it makes us comfortable and snug as bears indoors. And with the pandemic still looming

around, we could all use a little bit of color yellow when going out, even if it’s just to replenish pantry staples or doing a milk tea run.

In beauty, the two colors offer a mix of warm

and cool tones and can be combined together to make a cool and warm statement. You can put on a shimmery yellow highlight, but put on calm gray in the eyes to diffuse the shine. Who says you cannot be sparkly and shimmery, but classy too?

Photo by via Pinterest

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Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone

Color Institute, added, “The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that color can hope to answer. “As society continues to recognize color as a critical form of communication, and a way to symbolize

thoughts and ideas, many designers and brands are embracing the language of color to engage and connect.”

Considering how glum 2020 has been, the resilience of gray and warmth of yellow sound like things we can all use right now.

Photo by Raban Haaijk via Unsplash


WORDS: Lei Panganiban-Duanan

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