Living coral: Pantone’s 2019 colour of the year


This muted terracotta is an oasis of calm. But what does such a solid shade say in these uncertain times?

The colour of the year comes as a huge relief. I might have predicted sewer-water grey or perhaps the livid yellow of the high-visibility vests worn by France’s gilets jaunes movement, a colour that screams distress like an Edvard Munch painting. From a Britain approaching the black hole of no deal Brexit to Malibu’s ashen burnt-out villas, the hues of these uncanny times must surely be disturbing. Not so, claims Pantone, the authority on colour for the design industry. Today it has announced that the colour of the year for 2019 is a kind of muted terracotta or pastel desert adobe, the sort of tempered earthen tone that might well have graced floors and walls in those Californian homes before they were devastated by November’s wildfires.

Someone has got to be feeling optimistic – and it seems to be the people met and Instagram accounts followed by Pantone, as it strove to determine the world’s chromatic mood. “It represents a feeling that’s out there in the zeitgeist,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. If so, perhaps the world is calmer and happier than we thought; or perhaps in troubled times we crave the reassurance of a colour that is warm, natural and solid.

To suggest that our entire culture can be thinking of the same colour at the same time may seem ludicrous, but Pantone does its research. “We start the year before. We travel all over the world and we talk to people,” says Eiseman. “We look at art exhibits and films and of course fashion. We see a direction …”

There is, behind the soothing glow, an edge to this colour. Pantone has named it “living coral”, which – by association – conjures images of dead coral, killed by warming seas. “We do have to think about bleaching of coral,” she says. Yet, Eiseman believes that few will see the colour and worry: “There are many more positive reactions than negative reactions.”

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