Pantone names two Colors of the Year for 2021

The Pantone Color Institute—the business unit within New Jersey-based color company Pantone that highlights the top seasonal colors for the design community—has announced its Colors of the Year for 2021: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, with the proprietary codes 17-5104 and 13-0647, respectively. 

The two colors, according to the company, “come together to create an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine-filled day.” With people seeking optimism in the face of crises, shades the company describes as “spirited and emboldening” offer vitality. 

The company describes Illuminating as a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray, meanwhile, is described as emblematic of solid and dependable elements that provide a firm foundation. The colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience, according to Pantone.

“The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one. The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” said 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.”

“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.” added Laurie Pressman, VP of the Pantone Color Institute. “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.”

Use in Design

Ultimate Gray and Illuminating do not have to be used in equal proportions, the company noted. Either color can take precedence whether for apparel, furnishings, product design or packaging.

Pantone suggested that Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are a good combination to set a mood in guestrooms or lobbies, adding a dose of sunshine and positivity, and that painting a front door in bright yellow Illuminating conveys a warm and welcoming message when supported by solid and dependable Ultimate Gray in the exterior finishes. The ideal combination for an office space, according to the company. would have Ultimate Gray providing a firm foundation for Illuminating, a vibrant yellow that heightens awareness and enhances intuition, lighting the way to the intellectual curiosity, originality and resourcefulness of an open mind.