Living Coral declared 2019 colour of the year

Got reef? Pantone’s colour of the year is intended to influence fashion and design. © Pantone

What does it tell us about ourselves? Each December, design company Pantone picks a colour of the year. It says 2019’s pink-orange hue will “provide comfort and buoyancy” in changing times.

This year, we explored the universe with ultraviolet. Next year we will be diving into the ocean in search of the “warmth” of a coral reef. So says Pantone, a design company which announces its “colour of the year” each December.

It is a serious business. Choosing Pantone 16-1546, or “Living Coral”, involved a year of talking to people all around the world, said the company’s executive director, Leatrice Eiseman.

Pantone also looks at art, fashion, technology and politics for inspiration.

This year, the choice is environmental too: “We do have to think about bleaching of coral,” said Eiseman. In the end, the colour must represent “the zeitgeist.”

For The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones, coral has a dark side. He argued that we only want paradise colours “in times of panic”. He pointed out that the reverse has been true in the past: “In the wealthy Renaissance […] the rich set themselves apart by donning black.”

Indeed, colours have taken on symbolic meanings throughout history. According to the author Gavin Evans, red has been linked to protest since 1293, when it was used by pirates. Purple was once such an expensive dye that it was only worn by royalty.

Does the colour of the year really tell us anything about 2019?

Coral’s moral

Of course not, say some. It is impossible to capture the mood of seven billion people. The task is so broad that it is meaningless. What did “Cerulean Blue” say about the year 2000? This gimmick is little more than a fashion trend, and fashion is famously fickle.

We can learn a lot, argue others. All seven billion of us are on this planet together; issues like climate change remind us of that. And colour has always helped us to express our ourselves. Living Coral is hopeful, warm, and it embraces nature. What better message for 2019?

You Decide

  1. What colour best represents the world today?


  1. Try to summarise the planet’s mood at the end of 2018 in a single sentence. Compare your results with your class. Do some common themes emerge?

Some People Say...

“Man needs colour to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water.”

Fernand Léger

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Pantone is famous for its colour swatches, known as the Pantone Matching System. The swatches have numbered colours printed on paper. They are used to match colours across different areas of design, such as paint and fabric.
What do we not know?
How much the colour of the year actually influences the next year’s design industry, as the colour is chosen based on current trends anyway.

Word Watch

When water is too warm, coral reefs expel the tiny algae which give them their colour. This causes the coral to turn white, known as bleaching.
The defining spirit or mood of a particular time.
The period between the 14th and 17th centuries in Europe. It is known for an outburst of art and new technologies.
One recipe for Tyrian purple, from 1600 BC, involved crushing murex sea snails. Around 12,000 were needed for a single gram.

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