Palette Trends of the 21st Century

Color is crucial in graphic design. As many will already know, Pantone chooses a color of the year it feels says something about the time. Pantone’s choices effectively represent a calendar of annual colors and give us a unique insight into color trends throughout the years. By considering Pantone’s Colours of the Year from 2000 to 2012 we can perhaps come to a better understanding as to how the world influences color trends and vice versa.

2000: CERULEAN BLUE: PANTONE 15-4020

CERULEAN BLUE: PANTONE 15-4020

How do you choose a color for the new millennium? Pantone did exactly that for 2000, picking Cerulean Blue. Matching the color of a clear calm sky, Cerulean Blue suggested serenity and inner spiritual peace during a major turning point in human history. As apocalyptic concerns evaporated with the passing of time, the tranquil Cerulean Blue proved to be tonal perfection.

2001: FUCSHIA ROSE: PANTONE 17-2031

FUCSHIA ROSE: PANTONE 17-2031

A major departure from the calmness of the previous year’s choice, Fuchsia Rose is a sexy and stimulating color, perfectly capturing the spirit of confidence and optimism of a world entering a new millennium and looking forward with renewed energy to a new era of creativity to be shaped by designers across the globe.

2002: TRUE RED: PANTONE 19-1664

TRUE RED: PANTONE 19-1664

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The spirit of optimism took a severe blow when the September 11 terrorist attacks destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was a time of grave reflection and remembrance, of passionate patriotic feelings and mourning for lost loved ones. True Red was a color symbolising hope and love, the lifeblood of a nation in recovery.

2003: AQUA SKY: PANTONE 14-4811

AQUA SKY: PANTONE 14-4811

In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks that shook the Western world people needed to remind themselves of the optimism felt at the start of the new millennium. Aqua Sky can be seen as a return to the clear-sighted serenity suggested by the choice of Cerulean Blue in 2000. It was a time to plan ahead and rebuild, drawing upon the resilience of hope.

2004: TIGER LILY: PANTONE 17-1456

TIGER LILY: PANTONE 17-1456

Continuing the trend throughout the decade for colors found in nature, the beautifully exotic orange of the tiger lily suggested a period of rejuvenation and cultural blossoming. Vibrant and energising, Tiger Lily’s orange was the perfect complement to Aqua Sky’s blue the previous year, suggesting a continuation of regrowth and the vital role creativity plays in it.

2005: BLUE TURQUOISE: PANTONE 15-5217

BLUE TURQUOISE: PANTONE 15-5217

Another natural color, Blue Turquoise is calm and cool, evoking a tranquil sea. Conjuring an image of looking out over the ocean at the horizon, Blue Turquoise can be read as both representing the need to gaze ahead into the future and the importance of escaping once in a while.

2006: SAND DOLLAR: PANTONE 13-1106

SAND DOLLAR: PANTONE 13-1106

What does it say for a year when a neutral color is chosen to represent it? Despite its relative warmth, Sand Dollar symbolised the need for quiet contemplation. Evoking natural environments like deserts, Sand Dollar was an organic tone inspiring focus and farsightedness without obtrusion.

2007: CHILI PEPPER: PANTONE 19-1557

CHILI PEPPER: PANTONE 19-1557

Pantone spiced things up for 2007 by choosing Chili Pepper as the color of the year. Bold and arresting, Chili Pepper reminded us of the need to remain adventurous and passionate when we design, inspiring us to keep our creative fires burning and to try something a little different and exotic now and then.

2008: BLUE IRIS: PANTONE 18-3943

BLUE IRIS: PANTONE 18-3943

Striking a perfect balance between blue and purple, Blue Iris symbolises the safe stability associated with the colour blue and the mysterious and magical quality of the color purple. Blue Iris reminded us to keep our feet on the ground, but to open our minds to the many mystical experiences we encounter every day, which of course includes creative inspiration.

2009: MIMOSA: PANTONE 14-0848

MIMOSA: PANTONE 14-0848

Humans have always celebrated the life-giving strength of the sun, with most early cultures worshiping a sun deity. Mimosa evokes the sheer power and vitality of the sun and the diverse wonders it sustains. Cheerfully radiant, the color was the perfect choice to uplift us as we neared a new decade.

2010: TURQUOISE: PANTONE 15-5519

TURQUOISE: PANTONE 15-5519

When Pantone revealed that they had chosen Turquoise as the color to welcome in the next decade they drew attention to the fact that the colour had long been valued as a protective talisman that symbolised healing and compassion. Turquoise also has a strong association with escapism, certainly a good positive way to usher in a new chapter.

2011: HONEYSUCKLE: PANTONE 18-2120

HONEYSUCKLE: PANTONE 18-2120

Bold and vigorous, the reddish pink of Honeysuckle is feminine and uplifting, encouraging confidence and creativity while elevating spirits. Dynamic and alluring, Pantone highlighted the fact that the color attracts hummingbirds to nectar, which in turn results in pollination and sustains natural growth.

2012: TANGERINE TANGO: PANTONE 17-1463

TANGERINE TANGO: PANTONE 17-1463

Red hot and seductive, Tangerine Tango is the latest color of the year chosen by Pantone for 2012. What does the color promise for next year? Will it be a high energy period of intense creativity and passionate productivity? Perhaps it’s up to us to open ourselves to the sultry seductiveness of Tango Tangerine and live the next 12 months in a manner matching the stimulating hue?

What are your views on the colors chosen by Pantone? Do you have any recommendations of your own?

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