2019 color of the year
Pantone color of the year is a peachy orange shade with a golden undertone, called living coral. (PANTONE 16–1546 TPX). It definitely feels more positive when compared to last year’s ‘Somber Ultraviolet’ or the 2016 ‘Rose Quartz’ and ‘Serenity’ that today looks so dated. It is also closer to the 2012 ‘Tangerine Tango’ color that today feels too bight and popular ‘Rose Gold’ color. The vibrant ‘Gen Z yellow’ was would have been another contender for this spot, but was overlooked in favor of this color. Living Coral will certainly inspire trendsetters and early adopter designers. It will influence product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, industrial design, digital product design, packaging, and graphic design. Dulux also launched its 2019 color of the year recently and opted for a versatile and warm shade called ‘Spiced Honey’. This is also an indication that there is a trend to return to raw, natural and earthy shades.
So what makes this color so special?
There is a trend to lean towards social and environmental concerns, particularly in GenZ. Fresh tones create harmony between humans, nature, and technology. Generally, a color with a gender-neutral appeal feels contemporary and helps point to higher human aspirations greater than oneself. This is an age of intense reaction and response due to social media. Unheard, unseen issues and topics can be easily brought to the forefront. Living Coral is likely to do its part to draw attention to environmental issues corals are facing today.
There is more to this color that Pantone has not articulated. It is beyond the connections with coral reefs in nature and the concept of fusing technology with nature. This logic seems too stretched but if it brings environmental awareness and starts conversations, it will be worth it. Any nod to nature, environmental concerns, and climate change is a contemporary point of view welcomed everywhere in the world. Frankly, shades of green are closer to nature compared to shades of orange or reds. Living coral does feel cheerful and warm but so are other shades of red and orange. There is energy in such shades that make any design vibrant. This color does bring to mind feelings of recreation, leisure, and celebration.
Colors are a reflection of our culture and contemporary point of views. Selection of a color is also not done in isolation but there is always a design language. There is always a context to the color and a combination of the colors to express in a design.
With great color, comes great responsibility
Designers carry a much larger responsibility as influencers when it comes to colors. Many designers around the world will be using this color extensively this year to create a trend in fashion, retail, packaging and other areas of design. It will be interesting to see how designers would express this color in a relationship with other colors in their cultures. It is generally a race where everyone simply follows when influencers set the trend with their color choices, schemes, and combinations.
This color makes a statement
Nature is the source of energy. With so much digital noise around us, a color that seems authentic and helps establish human emotional connections of warmth, optimism, nourishment, comfort, lightheartedness, and buoyancy is a refreshing change.
Good brand identity systems carry a bright, interesting accent color for a designer to judiciously use it in the design and make it come to life. Majority of the times, brand identity color schemes are neutral, timeless, and safe color schemes. Clients are unwilling to take a big risk and use a bold color. This color generally looks good in small doses. It makes for a good accent color and is a contrasting color. It gives a boost of energy to an otherwise serious, cold and isolating color palette. It contrasts and balances very well with cooler tones of green and blue. Living coral and cactus green is an interesting contrast even we visualize a cactus plant against a wall of living coral color. Living coral color can also work for outdoor furniture placed between a green dominated natural environment. Tiffany blue and living coral also make a good combination. Another good combination is when it is paired with 2013’s Color of the Year Emerald,
Prints and accents are a great way to break up the color. Outfits in this color will be vibrant. Whites in the primary palette will help tone it down if needed. Neutrals on the other hand help contrast its brightness in outfits. Designers will have to compliment this color with very strong neutrals as well as primary shades. When used with mid-tones and happy pastels, it will be influencing color systems to go warmer and lighter.
This color complements all skin tones across all ages, genders, and ethnicity and thus works well in fashion and accessories. The delightful applications of this color will be beyond fashion, social media influencer posts and consumer packaging. Some areas of product design still need a fresh infusion of delight and energy. Many machines and tools are still produced in the traditional machine green or grey colors and it is time for a change. Medical devices too could use some of this color.
This color is spiritual
It is said that our mind does not really need colors. It can do with black, white and greys. They are enough to understand contrast and variations in our thought process. However, our heart or the emotional being needs colors to have rich life experiences. Specific colors relate to specific emotions and aspects of our senses. Women have a better sense of colors because their heart chakra is more elevated than men and thus we find women taking an extra time and effort in choosing their clothes with best color combinations or wearing makeup. An emotionally rich color like living coral will find more customers in women compared to men.
Pantone Living Coral contains a mix of red, yellow and white that signifies positive emotional energy. It is friendly and soothing to the heart. Meditating on this color increases harmony and sense of fulfillment in us.
We perceive colors based on what is reflected from an object instead of what it holds back. So essentially color of an object is what it gives away and not what it actually is. This is also the nature of life and we are known for what we give to others. If a color evokes emotions of joy and warmth, it is holding back everything else. Joy and optimism do come through from this color also because of its spiritual connections.
According to Yoga, our body has chakras. During meditation when a yogi transcends from the heart chakra towards the third eye chakra, he may experience a shift in the colors. From the most vibrant red color to the color of enlightenment, saffron. Monks typically wear shades of this color. This shade of orange carries the energy of red in a subtle form but combined with wisdom, vision and a sense of detachment. This means the warmth and love this color expresses has transformed itself into a love without expectations and is universal. This is also the key to real happiness when we conduct our worldly affairs without attachments. This color is also a symbol of maturity in life. Adding white in this color makes a tint that communicates feelings of all-inclusiveness, comfort, and peace. Designers should use these properties of colors to exploit their healing energies and evoke certain emotions in users. Colors that we reflect are added to our aura. Some people wear white so that they do not add anything else on themselves and keep it clean.
The future is transparent
Online interactions are increasingly driven by technology and becoming cold. There is a need to humanize the interactions using authentic storytelling and conversational interfaces. We’re already moving from one-size-fits-all experiences towards individually tailored experiences where technology is adapted to individual user’s needs. There is no right or wrong colors in these experiences. Right or wrong can change based on the qualitative data from the user.
The future of color in UX is where experiences will no longer be forced on the users, but highly customized through AI and machine learning. Instead of the yearly color predictions, the AI of the digital product will figure out color preferences of a user and serve the experience in those color schemes. This would require brands to become more flexible and versatile in their design language. Maybe the color for the year 2021 is going to be a ‘transparent’ color. The pigment of personalization will transform it as per the user’s profile.
The one-dimensional color trends are also likely to cease in the future and trends will look into context, user and channel as key considerations for its selection. We may see more complex color combinations and color systems being released each year. The sophistication of color usage will lead to better visual experiences in the future for users.
Some questions still remain
The first question that comes to the mind is why is it announced before the start of the year? Should it not be announced at the end of the year, to sum up, the trends in colors seen globally? By announcing at the beginning of the year, is Pantone setting the yearly trend based on a pre-assigned color?
Can this color stand firm in both summer and winter weathers? It definitely seems to hold the fort in the spring season due to its energy.
While this color makes me want to go and have an island vacation this summer, I am Looking forward to seeing all the ways living coral will be used in 2019.
About the Author:
Himanshu Bharadwaj is a digital creative director in New York and Connecticut area, with expertise in crafting UX/UI designs. You can view his work at Epitomecreative.com. Himanshu’s mailbox is always open if you would like to work together, or just have something interesting to say.