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Pantone Color of the Year: The 2021 Selections Are Gray and Illuminating

Pantone Color of the Year: The 2021 Selections Are Gray and Illuminating


A fabric swatch that shows PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray.

Photo: Courtesy of Pantone

The Pantone color of the year for 2021 is officially here. Except, the color authority has announced not one but two hues—both of which were preliminarily identified by Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, just as the coronavirus had started crossing borders and prompting quarantines. Number of selections aside, the main news is that it’s time to meet PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating.

Ultimate Gray represents the practical, resilient mindset demanded of the pandemic, while its sunshiny counterpart expresses optimism for the future. Yet Eiseman would not rush her team’s final decision, which will be announced this evening at a digital broadcast at ARTECHOUSE in Manhattan. “Particularly in a time like this, when we face the same colors every day in sequestration, we wanted to be sure of the selection,” the expert states to AD PRO.

A closer look at PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating.

Photo: Courtesy of Pantone

“We have eyes and ears on the ground across the world,” Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, says of the months-long process. “The global team is looking at art, entertainment, film and production, all areas of design, and aspirational travel destinations. New lifestyles, socioeconomic conditions, technologies, or materials could impact color.” 

Historic events of the summer and fall, such as protests against systemic racism and the more recent rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, appeared to validate Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. Pressman adds, “Seeing people reset their minds and their priorities, there appeared to be an understanding that we need each other if we’re going to get through to this other place,” and a pairing of colors underscored that interdependence.

Ceramicist and designer Jonathan Adler immediately picked up on the selection’s message, calling the duo a “pleasing, soothing, soft, and pretty combination” when commenting to AD PRO. He continues, “Perhaps all of us, whatever our politics, are looking for a soft landing from the cultural battles of the last several years and the gloom of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soft gray with light yellow feels like morning.”

Another array of images that exemplifies the dichromatic color palette.

Photo: Courtesy of Pantone

In a statement, Pantone reflected on possible interiors applications for the colors: “Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are a great combination to set the mood in any room in the home adding a dose of sunshine and positivity. . . . 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.”



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