Pantone’s Colors of the Year

If there’s something we can say for certain about 2021, it’s that it has been a wild ride. It makes sense, then, that for the second time ever, Pantone has released a pair of pigments as their colors of the year. 

In 2016, Pantone released two colors of the year: a blush pink and baby blue pair called Rose Quartz and Serenity. It was the first time since they started releasing their annual picks in 2000 that they chose to release a second hue. Now, they’re back with another striking set of shades, this time titled Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.

We’re taking a look into how Pantone chooses their annual color release, explaining a few ways to use the colors of the year, and showing a few examples of the pairing out in the wild!

Why These Two Colors?

From fashion blogs and runways to home furnishings and industrial spaces, yellow and gray have been spotted in loads of great designs. Color experts at the Pantone Color Institute work together every year to forecast some of the most popular up-and-coming colors. 

They release the Viewpoint Colour magazine—a global publication and exploration of color aimed at designers—as well as coloring books and other educational materials that explore the fundamentals of color, it’s meaning, and how to use it. Their color consultation services are also helpful for brands looking to define their standards and create unique stories using color.

The selection process is highly involved as their team considers and analyzes trends and pinpoints new color influences. To forecast their colors of the year, experts pore over examples of color use throughout the entertainment industry, in art collections, at fashion shows, on social media platforms, during major events, in trending topics, and more before deciding on their color (in this case, colors) of the year. 

Pantone’s goal with this year’s pairing was to denote newfound hope after a difficult year. 2021 came on the heels of plenty of turmoil, and the trendsetters at the Pantone Color Institute wanted to share “a message of happiness supported by fortitude.” People across the globe went through a tough time, and Ultimate Gray paired with Illuminating offers a visual representation of hopefulness amidst otherwise dismal times.

A search for “yellow and gray” on Pinterest yields plenty of home decor inspiration

Ways to Use Ultimate Gray 

Gray is a great tone to use when you’ve got space to fill but you don’t want to distract your reader. Neutrals are great for carrying lots of text as an unassuming background color, but it’s also useful when connoting luxury, intellect, or stoicism. Neutrals like Ultimate Gray are useful in interior design for wall or carpet colors as you can use brighter tones—like Illuminating—as pops of color.

Ways to Use Illuminating

Yellow is powerful, and should therefore be used with caution. Yellows like Illuminating are great for calling out important text or sharing a catchy slogan. A great signature color, yellow is loud and bright, so it can help you stand out in a crowd. It’s a color that pops, so use yellow where you want your reader’s attention to go on your next website.

Palette Examples in Web Design

A quick Pinterest search for “yellow and gray” proves that the palette has a variety of uses, from rugs and curtains to outfits to nail art. While the tones may not be exactly Pantone-approved, here’s a few examples of this year’s power colors working together in real designs, courtesy of the Awwwards: a competition organization that recognizes excellence in web design and development.

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