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Living Coral: Pantone's Color of the Year

Billy Fasig

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It’s something that most people only hear about once a year. For many designers, myself included, we are always curious what Pantone’s next Color of the Year will be. Earlier this month, they announced Pantone 16-1546 as the chosen shade, giving it the moniker Living Coral. I’ve created a graphic below that provides more designer-friendly values of this specific PMS (Pantone Matching System) color.

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For the less design-oriented readers, PMS colors allow designers a better way of matching very specific shades of colors when producing final products. These colors can be used in a variety of aspects (textiles, dyes, etc), but most often are used for printing. Color books are usually used for this process. Think of a book filled with thousands of paint swatches, and you’ve basically got the right idea. This system of colors and books allow companies to maintain their color branding even when they aren’t producing their own collateral materials, and allows production companies like the one I work for, to easily have a reference to make sure the colors turn out exactly as they are supposed to. Many times, our clients at PermaCard and MenuWorks will request that final products use their specific Pantone colors.

Most everyone is familiar with the famous Tiffany blue, the robin egg blue shade of Tiffany & Co. jewelry company. This specific PMS color is actually a private custom color (PMS 1837) that was produced by Pantone. Tiffany & Co. has actually trademarked the color, so Pantone doesn’t even include it in their color books. Other famous examples include Barbie pink, UPS brown, John Deer green, Cadbury purple… the list goes on and on. I’m sure most everyone could recognize most of the colors below, even if I had not included the names and PMS colors.

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Let’s go back to the Color of the Year. Pantone describes ‘Living Coral’ as “an animating and life-affirming shade of orange with a golden undertone” and goes on to use colorful phrasing like, “vibrant yet mellow” to paint the mental image. Pantone’s use of the word “living” in the name is interesting to me.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the word “coral” is enough of a descriptor to give someone an idea of that specific shade already. However, the use of “living” makes sense for the shifting environment and ecosystem of the coral reefs. We’ve all heard of the devastating effects of coral bleaching, mainly from rising sea temperatures, and the effect is has on the ocean and the creatures inhabiting these regions. When water temperatures rise, corals expel algae living in their tissue, which over time causes them to not only lose their vibrancy and color, but also die off at a rapid pace.

IMAGE CREDIT: University of New South Wales

IMAGE CREDIT: University of New South Wales

The need to specify “Living Coral” rather than simply “Coral,” in my opinion, is a nod to the ever changing world that we live in. Imagine 10-15 years in the future if coral bleaching worsens and climate change is still not taken as seriously as it should be. These ecosystems of reefs, housing millions of sea creatures could become only monochromatic shades of white and light grey. Not only would the coral no longer be living, but neither would all the creatures that depend on these environments for shelter and comfort.

In that same timeline, coral will no longer be a way to describe the gorgeous orangish pink shade, with golden undertones. Coral would instead be used to describe an ‘off-white’ dull color. Using ‘coral’ is a pretty common way for me to describe that shade… switched with ‘salmon’ occasionally. It’s hard to imaging not using it as a descriptor in the future. I think Pantone says it best:

Living Coral emits the desired, familiar, and energizing aspects of color found in nature. In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, PANTONE Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.

Maybe I’m diving too far into my own thoughts, especially since this is all based on a single shade of pink, but I think it’s worth it to bring up a discussion. As a designer, I hope to see Pantone’s Living Coral captivating the world for a while, whether it be in the fashion industry, product packaging, home decor, or elsewhere. I think it’s a beautiful color. But even though I’d enjoy seeing the color ‘Living Coral,’ I’d prefer to see living coral thriving at the ocean floor for decades to come.


For anyone’s curiosity, I have include a graphic on all past Color of the Year selections by Pantone below. Thank you for reading. I hope it was at least thought-provoking.

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Norway's new "artsy" currency

Billy Fasig

From a young age, I've always thought the US currency was pretty bland. Don't twist my words though, I always loved having money in my pocket, but I never really liked the design of them. Once I started expanding my design side, I really started to question why the US currency hadn't changed throughout the years. I'm not talking about slight edits to the currency forms, mainly for extra security measures. I'd like to see current bills scrapped and completely redesigned from the ground up.

Well, the United States didn't do it, but Norway is on the verge. This spring (2014), Norges Bank of Norway held a competition to redesign the new banknotes. As the mission stated, "the purpose of the competition was to arrive at a proposal that can be the artistic basis of the new banknote series and communicate 'The Sea' in an appropriate manner." A design group called The Metric System was selected for the front side, while the reverse side of the banknotes would feature art by Snøhetta Design. [image shown below]

I personally think these new banknotes are stunning. I'd love to see something like this adapted for American currency. The front sides leave plenty of space for security elements in the design. It features five illustration designs based on the Norwegian landscape/life, all of which illustrate the sea in some fashion.

The reverse side is extremely interesting to me. Snøhette created an idea that is pretty clever in my opinion. First, you notice that the designs are somewhat abstractions of the illustrations from the front side of the banknotes. However, it goes a little further than that. As the amounts of the bills increase, so do the length of the rectangles in the design. Why is this? It's a concept based on the Beaufort wind force scale (yet again a reference to the sea). As the denominations increase, the abstraction of the wind force does as well. You'll see on the 50 kroner that it's only small bars and slight pixelation. Once you get to the 1000 kroner, the bars are extremely long with absolutely no clarity in what the original design is.

These designs are set to enter circulation in Norway in 2017. 

Now really, who wouldn't want to see the United States switch things up?

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Retro Movie Posters

Billy Fasig

South African creative studio MUTI recently created a series of posters that are based on four famous film locations, designed in a retro-esque styling.  MUTI was commissioned by FoxP2 to create these posters for their Ster-Kinekor Theaters. I absolutely love how it was pulled off. Using a limited color palette in each poster, MUTI created great designs for all four films (The Shining, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings, and King Kong). These are excellent posters. I really want to own them.

Diploma Arrival

Billy Fasig

It's been over three months since I walked across the stage for my graduation and my diploma finally showed up at my doorstep today. It's funny how the timing of events happen sometimes... just yesterday I was planning on calling the university to ask when it would be arriving, seeing as though they told us it'd be about a month after our graduation. But regardless, it's finally here. Five years of hard work and dedication. It almost seems silly how proud I am of this piece of paper.

Designing for the Homeless

Billy Fasig

The Signs for the Homeless project exchanges handwritten cardboard signs for colorfully illustrated, extremely eye-catching redesigns in the hopes that they will benefit those holding them... by helping them get noticed. I'm sure we've all encountered homeless people asking for money. Many times they just walk by and don't even ask, as if they've given up hope. I read an article on this project and found it to be extremely fascinating. The new signs are so much more eye-catching and provide the homeless people holding them a little more hope of being noticed.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't typically have loose change or dollars in my wallet. Most of my money is on my card. So when I encounter a homeless person, I usually try to avoid eye-contact all together. Christopher Hope, one of the creators of this project says, "good design helps you see the world in a different way." So I ask you, if you were walking down the street and happened to see a homeless person holding an excitingly colored sign like this, would you be more likely to stop for a second or at least glance their way? I believe that I would.