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The Pantone Color of the Year 2021: Ultimate Gray & Illuminating

Being one of the most unpredictable and difficult years in the last decade, Pantone has gifted us by recognizing not one but two colors as its Color of the Year 2021. In an unprecedented decision, the color matching company has chosen both Ultimate Gray (PANTONE 17-5104) and Illuminating (PANTONE 13-0647) as its Color of the Year 2021. But the choice of these two vastly different yet complimenting colors goes far deeper than just aesthetic beauty. Each individual color has an immense purpose, while the combination of the two uplifts and inspires. In essence, the choice of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating gives a knob to the hardship of 2020 while highlighting the hopefulness we all feel for 2021.

Why Ultimate Gray & Illuminating?

From dealing with a global pandemic and our 'new normal' to continuing the fight against climate change and equal rights for all, 2020 has been a challenging year. Pantone, like many other companies, has recognized the hardships and unpredictability that 2020 has been, and has used its Color of the Year 2021 — Ultimate Gray and Illuminating — to inspire. Pantone has described this color combination as "a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting" — something we all hope for in 2021.

A Duo With A Powerful Message

As two independent colors, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are beautifully strong, but the combination of the two highlights how different elements come together to support one another. The togetherness and support of each other are why this color combination is Pantone's Color of the Year 2021 and speaks volumes of Pantone's current social awareness.

In 2016, Pantone, for the first time, introduced a duo of colors for its Color of the Year. Like Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, Rose Quartz (Pantone 13-1520) and Serenity (Pantone 15-3919) portrayed a vital social awareness element of gender fluidity. The color combination challenged traditional perceptions of color association and reflected the gender blur that was taking place specifically in fashion.

"The Pantone Colour of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that color can hope to answer. As society continues to recognize color as a critical form of communication, and a way to symbolize thoughts and ideas, many designers and brands are embracing the language of color to engage and connect," added Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute.

Overall, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are both practical and rock solid but exudes optimism and a warm feeling, making the combination one of strength and positivity. Even though it's a story of color that evokes a more profound sense of thoughtfulness, it also promises a brighter, sunnier tomorrow.

"The selection of two independent colors highlight 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 union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude," said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.


Did Pantone Get It Wrong With Classic Blue In 2020?

For 2020, Pantone selected Classic Blue (PANTONE 19-4052) as its Color of the Year. Meant to embody an energy of renewal and opportunity and instil calm, confidence, and connection, the year gave the majority of the world very little of what Classic Blue alludes to. No one could have predicted what happened in 2020, and neither could Pantone. Let's hope the company is spot on for 2021.

How-To Use The Color of the Year 2021 In Business

Every year designers and marketers wait with anticipation for the Pantone Color of the Year to be announced. Influencing the direction of trends and moods within all industries, the Color of the Year often becomes a key factor in many businesses' product lines, branding, and advertising. The Pantone Color of the Year, with its duo of colors, is a stunning combination to make a statement, especially in today's social and political climates. Here are a few ways to use the 2021 Color of the Year:

  • Brand Campaigns: Whether billboards and storefront displays or website banners and social media content, the contrasting color combination of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating will be eye-catching.

    Business Cards: 2021's Color of the Year are a beautiful combination for business cards. Whether you run a social activism organization, NGO, or a local business, this duo of color conveys warmth, happiness, and hopefulness. In turn, this will make your business card stand out from the rest in a pile.

    Product Packaging: Getting your product packaging right can take a lot of work. If you already have a design that you love but want a fresh look for 2021, why not change up the color using Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. If you're still working on your packing, 2021's Color of the Year might be precisely what you've been looking for.

  • No matter what industry you're in, the Pantone Color of the Year 2021 is truly something worth working into your business. The impact of this duo is undeniable, on-trend, and has a profound message behind it.