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.
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.
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.
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:
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.