PANTONE color of the year: Optimism meets reliability

3 min read
© Avinash Kumar, Unsplash

The colors gray and yellow are the perfect duo and are considered the colors of 2021. Strictly speaking, these are the colors "Ultimate Gray" and "Illuminating," which were selected and defined by the Pantone Color Institute as current trend colors. For more than 20 years, color experts from the institute – with worldwide recognition in terms of color theory and color psychology – have used comprehensive analyses to determine the most influential colors within the current social structure. For the respective upcoming year, this color selection has a significant influence on the development of new products and collections as well as on general purchasing decisions in almost all industries – from fashion, furniture and industrial design to packaging and graphic design to new technologies and social media platforms.

© all Images, Avinash Kumar, Unsplash

A color combination connects

After 2016, however, 2021 is now only the second time that not just one color has been chosen as the trend color, but a combination of two colors describes the current zeitgeist. This reveals the current ambivalence within the cultural sensibility. Times are uncertain, characterized by little permanence and anxiety but at the same time by mindfulness and appreciation. Ultimate Gray here fulfills the need for security and reliability while Illuminating becomes a symbol of the urge for freedom, creative power as well as pure joy of life. Similarly, as these almost diametrical emotional states appear and can change erratically, the combination of the selected shades can also vary and be used and adapted flexibly. The starting point of the color combination of gray and yellow is a strong contrast. Especially in multimedia design, this ensures clear and easily readable messages. Depending on the regulation of the color components, the contrast can be weakened or strengthened in one direction or the other. In this way, the respective tendency can be individually served and underlined, which in turn influences the statement of the desired message.

© Unsplash Kevin Butz

A basis for energy

Within architecture, the combination of gray and yellow shades opens up not only a play of colors but also a play of different materials. For example, gray exposed concrete can be elegantly combined with yellow integrally colored glass elements. Open-pored roughness thus meets smooth, cool surfaces. At the same time, this combination scores with a reduced appearance and a high degree of naturalness. In this case, these two materials act very discreetly with clear lines and authenticity. In an arrangement of gray façade panels and yellow painted sheet steel, on the other hand, it is easy to create very different patterns and structures that create exciting lighting effects and direct the viewer's gaze. Whether horizontal, vertical or curved – thanks to the latest production techniques, there are almost no limits to compositions and installations.

Moreover, Ultimate Gray is not only figuratively associated with the foundation of a house. Solid and stable: concrete is used not only for strip foundations, floor slabs, basement and wall structures, but also in many cases for the inner cores and supporting structures of large building projects. This heightens these types of associations with the color palette. Yellow, on the other hand, is linked to pure solar power, as facing the sun and openness, resulting in a wide variety of yellow tones adorning a large portion of many facade surfaces.


The cube house in Rotterdam by Piet Blom © Unsplash - Mike van den Bos

Powerful and harmonious

A powerful contrast becomes the starting point for this Pantone color combination in 2021, a perfect basis for very different combinations and an impressive, broad spectrum of synthesis possibilities. Both Ultimate Gray and Illuminating quite autonomously embody an energetic, powerful presence. Together they captivate with a very balanced harmony of opposites: Firmness meets lightness, coolness meets warmth, calmness meets alertness, introvert meets extrovert, freshness meets solidity, and robustness meets filigree. And yet both colors are united by a high degree of reduction and elegance. Not too much, not exaggerated and always a discreet basis – also to combine them coherently and individually with other color palettes.


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