When the Pantone Color Institute makes an announcement, you had better listen up. As the arbiter of all things color, Pantone has the authority to make grandiose assertions about color trends and forecasting that others simply can’t. They recently added 224 colors to their Pantone Formula Guide, for example, with hues chosen that reflect what they predict will be “the most popular color families of the next decade.”
That’s quite the claim, but if anyone can make it, it’s Pantone. This power is not something the company takes lightly, as they go through thorough specific processes when selecting what colors are added to the Formula Guide. “When we add new colors, we want to make sure the colors we are adding will resonate with the markets our clients are looking to engage,” the Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute, Laurie Pressman, explained via email. “The consideration of how multiple industries view the colors was key, and balance was a primary factor when selecting the colors to be added. To ensure we are adding the right colors, the Pantone Color Institute team of global color experts are brought into this process.”
“The selection process takes into consideration the general direction and movement of color trends by color family, and the needs of the industries of those we currently serve and those we would like to better impact,” Pressman continued. “In addition to working with our trend team at the Pantone Color Institute, we consult with our globally based color forecasting partners, solicit the input from some of our key customers around the globe, and look at highlighted colors from key trade shows worldwide.”
The color trends that Pressman and the rest of the Pantone team identify are reflective of greater movements across design industries and beyond. “Color is a living language that expresses what is taking place in the culture,” said Pressman. “Whenever we add new colors, it is always with our design community clients in mind. Color direction is influenced by many elements including demographics, geographical location, climate, new lifestyles and play styles, and cultural and social influences. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures and effects that impact color.”
With all of this in mind, Pantone unveiled a slew of carefully selected oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, browns, blues, purples, greens, and grays in the Formula Guide, each chosen for their ability to provide designers with the most sought-after shades. Pantone found that the desire for spicier and deeper shades of orange has grown, for example. As a result, they added hot and radiant orange tones, an assortment of spicy shades with greater color depth, more toned-down hues suffused with brown, and a variety of coral, softer peach, and apricot hues.
Pantone also identified a growing predilection for more luxurious neutrals in the brown family. Thus they added brown shades with more color depth and versatility, like golden-browns, and those with red-based undertones, along with robust coffee, mocha browns, and several warmer, classic camel tones tap into the rising popularity of khaki and taupe.
Our society’s necessary focus on the environment, health, and green living has contributed to a spike in green hues. As such, additions like earthy, warm yellow greens, true green shades, deep blue-influenced greens, grayed-down, blue-based greens, celery green tones, and citrusy, energetic yellow-green hues were also made to the Formula Guide.
Purple tones continue their tenure as a perennial favorite, so Pantone added vibrant, red-based purples, several grayish purple with blue undertones, an array of softer mid-tones, and some more mystical, smokey violet purples.
While Pantone is confident in the new 225 shades they’ve just added to the Formula Guide, they know full well that trends shift and change by definition, so they’re not writing off any shades or hues that didn’t make the cut this time around. “The popularity and our perceptions/reactions to different colors and color families ebbs and flows based on what is taking place in the culture,” explained Pressman. “What may be on its way out today, could cycle back in tomorrow.”
But the colors they have chosen aren’t going anywhere, ever. “When we add new colors, it is always with this understanding in mind as well as the need for color longevity. We are a color standards company, which means we do not remove colors from our books,” said Pressman. “This idea of colors having a long lifespan and remaining relevant in our global culture always factors into our decision making when it comes to new color additions.”