It wasn’t traditional pastels announcing the birth of fraternal twins that inspired the pastel pink and blue hues that Pantone chose as its 2016 Color(s) of the Year. It was dying hydrangeas in a fog-shrouded Pacific West garden that spoke to Pantone’s lead color expert.
Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said she found the 2016 colors of the year – Rose Quartz and Serenity – outside her home in Bainbridge Island west of Seattle.
“Hydrangeas, I think, are sometimes more beautiful when they’ve died than when they’re alive,” Eiseman told a reporter, pointing to the faded pink and blue blossoms that helped her and her team make their color picks for 2016. This is the first time that Pantone has designated more than one color for its official annual hue.
Mindfulness and Playfulness Inspired 2016 Color Choices
Pantone’s official statement says the baby colors were inspired by “mindfulness” and convey “a soothing sense of order and peace” that is a symbolic “color snapshot of what we see taking place in our culture at a particular moment in time.”
As reported by Los Angeles Times reporter Lisa Boone, the color choices also represent gender equality. “In many parts of the world we are experiencing a gender blur as it relates to fashion…This more unilateral approach to color is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.”
But, if you listen to Eiseman chat with Ashley Gross, of KPLU News in Seattle, you get the impression that Pantone Color Institute’s team leader takes a more playful than pontifical approach to color.
Paint Color Choices and Freedom of Expression
Eiseman grew up in a house with an ever-changing color palette. Her mother painted the inside of their home a new shade every spring for more than two decades and didn’t stop with the walls and ceilings. She also applied fresh paint to the family piano every year and once painted kitchen broiler Nile green.
The latter was not a good idea, Eiseman says, “because the next time she plugged it in, of course, we almost had the house burn down. But that’s the kind of encouragement I got when I was a kid,” she added in an interview aired on Marketplace NPR.
Hooked on a (Painted) Feeling
And as much as the Pantone team chooses colors to symbolize the way they think the nation is feeling, Eiseman says she really hopes to inspire people to experiment with color. She is happy, she says, when her neighbors add a splash of vivid color to their otherwise neutral decors.
Like her mother, Eiseman enjoys a colorful home. She painted one of her bathrooms – ceiling included – maroon and her living room a light yellow to evoke sunshine.
Praise for Pastels
Journalists and designers didn’t express much love for Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year. “Think rust, the grimy, gag-inducing type that lines corners of frat boy dormitory-style bathrooms. Or blood, the freaky dried kind whose iron content has been exposed to the air long enough to evoke a dull brick,” wrote Tanya Basu in The Atlantic. And Kathleen Hou, a writer for New York Magazine said, “Icky” marsala is a “color that makes you want to go to Olive Garden or order Tampax in bulk.”
But the baby hues of 2016 are getting some soft praise.
Timothy Corrigan, a Los Angeles interior designer commented, “People are ready for softer colors. They are moving away from the strong bold colors and geometric patterns that have been popular over the past few years. There is a return to comfort and innocence.”
And ABC reporter Suzan Clarke notes that Pantone’s 2016 colors have already been embraced by designers such as Prada, Chanel, Thom Browne, Richard James, Roberto Cavvalli, Valentino and Fendi.