Pantone Picked Not One, But Two Shades as the 2021 Color of the Year

living room with gray sofa and yellow accents

Design by Emily Henderson Design; Photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Every December, design lovers wait with bated breath to find out what shade Pantone will select as its Color of the Year. After months of every paint brand under the sun releasing their own Color of the Year predictions, the color experts at Pantone finally reveal their choice just a few weeks before the new year starts. But this time around, they turned the process on its head.

Instead of selecting one hue as the singular Color of the Year for 2021, Pantone chose two distinct shades that represented the mindset with which so many of us approached the end of 2020 (a year filled with unknowns).

The selection of two independent colors highlights how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one.

The two colors are PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating. According to Pantone, Ultimate Gray is "emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation," while Illuminating is "a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power."

ultimate gray

Pantone

"The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude," says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. "Practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; this is essential to the human spirit."

Choosing a grounding gray shade paired with a bright cheery yellow conveys "a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting," according to Pantone.

illuminating yellow

Pantone

This is the first time since 2016 that Pantone has crowned two shades as the ultimate Color of the Year, but Eiseman explains that choosing a pair of independent colors is a way to reflect what is happening around the world—particularly when so many lives have been upturned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The selection of two independent colors highlights how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one," Eiseman says.

And while Pantone's Color of the Year is representative of color trends in general, not just in home décor, the Pantone Color Institute believes both hues make great choices when it comes to interiors.

gray living room

Rikki Snyder

"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. Juxtaposing Illuminating with Ultimate Gray in table linens, sheeting, and home accessories (including pillows and tabletop) infuses vitality and liveliness," according to a Pantone press release.

yellow bathroom

Dazey Den/@dazeyden

"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," the press release continues. Pantone says that these colors are "the ideal combination for any office, whether that's in the home or in a commercial space, with Ultimate Gray providing the firm foundation for Illuminating, a vibrant yellow that heightens awareness and enhances intuition, lighting the way to the intellectual curiosity, originality, and resourcefulness of an open mind."

And while there's no way to know for certain what 2021 has in store for us, embracing the message of strength and hopefulness that Ultimate Gray and Illuminating promote will surely do us all well.

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