Let’s hope ‘Illuminating’ and ‘Ultimate Gray’ propel the world into a more positive 2021.

By Marissa Lee.

When the time came to announce Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2021, we had our hopes high in anticipation of what the coming year would bring. The color of the year is clairvoyant in a strange way, and is always backed up with a lengthy description of its make-up and significance.

2019’s Color of the Year, ‘Living Coral’ signified a “reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life,” and served to provide “comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.” 2020’s chosen hue, ‘Classic Blue’ was ordained as a means to “[highlight] our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.” (pantone.com)

This coming year’s choice is no different. As a year shrouded by dichotomous notions such as ‘social distancing,’ ‘coming together by staying apart,’and ‘uniting by dividing,’ 2020 was profoundly oxymoronic. Recognizing this when choosing  2021’s hue, Pantone has, in a very à propos move, cited two colors as their 2021 Colors of the Year, with a qualified analysis to boot.

Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating are the upcoming year’s picks, meant to symbolize “a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting.” The dichotomy between the colors, the way in which they so directly offset each other, is nothing if not apt. 

The colors carry their own respective meanings that are amplified when placed next to each other. Illuminating is a rich yellow verging on neon canary, and symbolizes “vivacity.” Ultimate Gray, on the other hand, is “emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.”

While the colors were met with mixed reviews from spectators, one cannot deny the touching reasons behind  the choices. While Ultimate Gray “quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience,” Illuminating “is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power.” It could be argued that the colors sum up the past year; as darkness shrouded humanity, we found small ways through which we could illuminate our circumstances.

The phenomenon is best summed up by Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. “Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit.”