The Pantone colour Classic Blue (19-4052) is the colour of the year 2020. The announcement was made in December by the Pantone Color Institute. Classic Blue, is supposed to be a shade reminiscent of the sky at dusk. “It's a colour that anticipates what's going to happen next,” elaborated Laurie Pressman, the VP of the Pantone Color Institute, which selects the colour of the year. “What's the future going to bring as we move into the evening hours?”
The colour choice of this year is actually fairly similar to the colour Cerulean, another shade of blue chosen 20 years ago in 1999 on the eve of Y2K as there was a lot of uncertainty, anxiety and expectation from a new century that was about to dawn. The Pantone Color Institute, explaining its colour choice, said it recognised similar feelings of instability gripping the world today, from the United States to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Syria and across the globe. It settled, therefore, on a shade that offers the reassurance, confidence and connection that people may be searching for in an uncertain global milieu.
Cerulean in fact found its way into popular culture and parlance through a prominent mention in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, where Meryl Streep lectures Anne Hathaway on the importance of colour and how it drives an entire industry, helping differentiate, beautify and embellish.
Living Coral (16-1546), a bright coral shade, was the 2019 Color of the Year. Although it may have seemed more pink in nature, Pantone described Living Coral as “an animated, life-affirming shade of orange, with golden undertones.” And Coral indeed was a trending colour in the year just gone by. Other colours that stood out were pink, vivid colour electric yellow, lime green, earth tones and gold. Designers worldwide also showed a marked preference for UFO Green, Plastic Pink and Proton Purple.
Each year’s colour choice is decided through a long, rigorous and thoughtful process by ‘colour experts’ and takes into consideration lifestyle and industry trends “Typically, trends that we see in color are reflecting big macro trends that are taking place in culture,” Pantone’s Pressman explained at the Classic Blue unveil. Colour influences can come from art, upcoming media, movies, lifestyles, socioeconomic and political conditions, travel destinations, new technology -- really anything. Other major players in the colour business are more tech in their approach.
Shutterstock, the photo guys for example, arrive at their colour frontrunners by collapsing pixel data and hex codes, based on actual customer search and usage.
To designers, painters, artists,even chefs, colour is a universal communicator, a dynamic force of the visual world that brings life and meaning to everything we see, use and even touch and smell. It affects how we feel, too. Humans have instinctive, emotional, and cultural reactions to colours across the spectrum. Colour predictions impact multiple businesses from automobiles to textiles to apparel to packaging to fashion to food to homes to lifestyles. Apple, for example, has been a major proponent of colours in its design development.
Other major colours expected to make a mark in 2020 include Mellow Yellow, Cantaloupe, Cassis, Purist Blue and Neo Mint. Cassis in particular fuses the pinks and purples that have made such a huge impact over recent seasons, capturing both the gender-neutral appeal of pink, and the modern appeal of purple. So colour predictions are not just the fancy of some crystal-ball gazing designers, but take into account analytics based on consumer trends, preferences and searches matched to sociological and cultural movements.
The first Color of the Year was selected way back in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the colour trend forecasting took on a life of its own. Nowadays, when a new colour is announced, colour experts offer colour lovers an array of inspirational products and color combination palettes designed especially with the corresponding color in mind. Hundreds of brands then take on the task of designing products with the colour of the year, adding importance and influence to the much-heralded choice.
In India too, the study of colours has been taking on more and more importance. Big paint companies like Asian and Kansai Nerolac have in-house experts working on colour palettes that will adorn homes and offices in the months and years to come. The likes of fashion designers Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra agonise for months trying to figure out what Deepika or Aishwarya will look best in at Cannes. So, do not be surprised if either of these beauties, and their other Bollywood colleagues wear a lot of Classic Blue this year. I must confess though that India still lags the world in adequate investments in tracking, analysing and predicting colour choices scientifically, and based on actual data. Nevertheless, global trends do tend to impact the thinking of those in the colour business in India.
Maybe, the time has come for someone of stature and repute to put out a well researched and well thought through colour of the year specific to India. It will impact the colour of all the lehengas at the big fat Indian weddings; will impact the sherwanis of all the NRIs at the glittering Delhi marriages; may also prompt a Maruti or a Toyota to launch a new automobile colour. Who knows!!!
(Carol Goyal is a masters in art business from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London and New York. She writes both on marketing and art).