#43: Who Cares About Pantone Color Trends?


PANTONE just released their 2016 Fall Color Palette this week. So what? Well, PANTONE sets the trends for colors. They are the design world’s leading color authority. But aren’t these trends meant for fashion? Designers don’t design anything for the runway, so why should we care? Well, besides the fact that fashion and graphic design are unarguably linked; PANTONE color trend announcements affect more than just fashion. So lets dig in a little bit and understand what these PANTONE color trends are all about.


Who is Pantone?

So who is PANTONE? Why do they get to decide the colors for the rest of the world? PANTONE is “the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries”. In other words, Pantone is the is the primary source for standardized color systems across the globe.

They are powerful in the world of design and their Color of the Year predictions are a major deal for every company who designs physical products (fashion designers, car manufacturers, interior designers, beauty and cosmetics, etc.).

These industries monitor color trends using the Pantone system every season. PANTONE color trend announcements reflect global societies, culture, and economies around the world. 

What do they do?

They set the standard for color consistency. PANTONE ensures that “whimsical poppy” (not an actual color) looks the same in Denver as it does in London or Paris. Pantone is universally recognized as the best system for color matching for all things visual and design centric.
The number sequences they assign to colors is organized by the PMS (Pantone Matching System) number. For example, the sea green hue in my logo is PMS#564. Whether I get my logo printed on a t-shirt, billboard, or business cards, it will consistently print as the correct color. Pantone is intensely focused on how their color forecasts apply to all areas of creative design that utilize color. 
The PANTONE name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer, to manufacturer to retailer to customer. 
This is important and all sorts of design, but especially to graphic designer’s. It is important to graphic designer’s in certain areas more than others but especially things like branding if you want to maintain a specific color. Any designer knows that maintaining your clients color scheme when branding is about most importance.

When do they announce new colors?

Pantone makes three major color announcements every year. The color of the year is usually announced between fall and December, Spring fashion reports are usually announced aroundSeptember, and fall fashion reports are usually somewhere between February and March. They make these announcements well in advance so that they can be used to create for when those seasons arrive.  

The 2016 Color of the Year is Rose Quartz/Serenity. For the first time in history, PANTONE has chosen two colors to represent the aura of the world in 2016. “Rose Quartz is a persuasive yet gentle tone that conveys compassion and a sense of composure. Serenity is weightless and airy, like the expanse of the blue sky above us, bringing feelings of respite and relaxation even in turbulent times.” (Ann Porter)

Pantone 2015 Color of the Year: Trends in Home Decor

Download the 2016 Color of The Year Swatches


Get Rose Quartz & Serenity and color pairings in ASE file format for Adobe® Applications.


How do they choose colors/trends?

The colors are chosen very carefully and intentionally by a committee. The committee is a group of 10 people who choose the colors. They meet twice a year in Europe at the invitation of the PANTONE company.
The whole process is very hush hush and the committee seems like a secret society. But the fact that it is not just some random people that work at PANTONE sitting around randomly choosing colors is really important.
The committee is a diverse group of people who travel the world observing average people in different countries. They observe attitudes towards life and politics, street fashion and beauty trends in those areas; then they document their findings to bring to the committee. They meet and a stark white room with white walls so as not to be influenced by color so each member can clearly see and judge the inspiration objects the others have brought.
Each committee member presents their suggestions and reasons (with picture proof) for thet colors they think will be best to represent the world in the coming year. They all vote together on the final colors based on a theme; this theme will help them decide the colors that will be relevant and exciting.
Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, explained how the colors are chosen in an interview with Glamour magazine, “What are people talking about [that] they feel they need, that color can help to answer? For us, the color of the year is not the hot fashion color, but an expression of a mood, an attitude, on the part of the consumers.”  
The purpose of the colors is not just to set a trend. There is so much psychology behind colors and color theory; the reports are meant to represent the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) of the entire world.
 “It’s hard to explain to anyone how you really arrive at the specific color,” Eiseman explains. “But it’s picking up nuggets of information wherever you travel — and I travel all over the world. If I see that a color is coming into prominence (for instance, if I’m in Asia and I see the same color in Italy and Germany), then I would say that color is on the rise and starts to have a collective impulse.” (Business Insider)

With the exception of a couple of regulars (including Leatrice Eiseman), the majority of the committee is completely anonymous. 


The Fall 2016 Fashion Report

As you can see, PANTONE puts a lot of thought into each and every color chosen each season. This year, PANTONE describes their fall palette for 2016 as “A Unity of Strength, Confidence and Complexity. The desire for tranquility, strength, and optimism have inspired a Fall 2016 color palette that is led by the Blue family. 

Along with anchoring earth tones, exuberant pops of vibrant colors also appear throughout the collections. Transcending gender, these unexpectedly vivacious colors in our Fall 2016 palette act as playful but structured departures from your more typical fall shades. 

Blue skies represent constancy as they are always above us. Grays give a feeling of stability, Red tones invite confidence and warmth, while the hot Pinkish Purples and Spicy Mustard Yellows suggest a touch of the exotic.”


2016 PANTONE Fall Fashion Report

Download all the Fall Fashion Color Swatches

Why do their choices matter?

So why is this important? Aren’t we as artists supposed to go against the trends and not be a follower? Well, yes and no. There’s something to be said for just being trendy and only doing something because it’s a trend, and taking something that could be a trend and making it your own.
Completely disregarding PANTONE color announcements shows a complete lack of wanting to learn and stay up-to-date with what is happening in the design world. As designers we are expected to keep up with trends; not only design trends, but creative trends (fine art, music, etc.) and especially color trends. 
Colors affect the feeling of every single thing we make and so do trends in color.The relevancy of these color predictions apply to virtually all visual industries. Even though this is the case, the color announcements have been a little bit controversial in the design world, some call them self-fulfilling prophecies. I’ve heard some say that they don’t like to follow the trends, but the people should decide what the trends are and not some random company. The problem I see with this is that these these critics are not educating themselves on the color choosing process and what PANTONE actually does.

So why should you actually care?

John Crocco, Creative Director at Perry Ellis says that if designers choose to follow the color forecasts, that they will be a “part of what ultimately becomes the trend.” (nor) But when designers overlook or flat out ignore trends as they relate to design, they will eventually become irrelevant.
Graphic designers should be the hippest, most in-touch culturally, up to date technologically, and creatively fashionable.
I don’t know about you, but I never want to be labeled as a designer who has become irrelevant. Irrelevance is death for a designer.  So remember that PANTONE is not only there for your reference and color consistency, but they are an incredible resource on what is happening worldwide in all sorts of design.
Use the palettes and experiment with the trends; doing this will ensure that you never risk irrelevance. Design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here-because design matters.

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