If you are involved or even more simply interested in the world of design, you have likely heard about the Pantone Color of the Year.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Color of the Year is a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.” — Pantone.[/perfectpullquote]

What began as a humble printing company in Carlstadt, New Jersey, has now evolved into one of the most recognizable brands in the design industry. While the company is most well-known for its development of the Pantone Matching System (PMS), it has also become one of the largest trend-setters in the design and color industry. It’s earned the moniker the “global authority on color” for a reason.

Since 2000, Pantone has declared a “Color of the Year,” that has been debated and selected by experts from around the world. Politics, pop culture, sports, technology, and social issues influence the selection of colors and are meant to show a “color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

How has the Color of the Year evolved over the last five years? Let’s take a look.


For the first time in history, the 2021 Color of the Year was not one but two colors: PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating. Pantone described this electric combination as, “a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting.”  My fellow SHP designers and I see this year’s color choices as reflective of the world’s collective mood entering 2021: a transition away from negativity, stress and heartache, represented by the gray—and toward positivity, hopefulness and light, represented by the yellow.


The 2020 Color of the Year was PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue. This elegant and simple selection was meant to represent our desire for a dependable and stable foundation to build upon as we entered a new decade. Recall back to the end of 2019 and early 2020: at the time, social upheavals, a roiling U.S. presidential election and dramatic natural disasters left many feeling uneasy. Pantone’s choice was meant to instill a calm confidence in us all.


In 2019, the Color of the Year was PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral. Pantone chose a warm and vibrant hue for 2019 to not only energize us, but to imbue us with passion and buoyancy in our ever-changing environment. Pantone describes Living Coral as “a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and, at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.”



The 2018 Color of the Year was PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet. According to Pantone, this vibrant tone communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking that points us toward the future. The idea behind this selection was to provide a sense of mysticism and intrigue in what lies ahead. It symbolizes unconventionality and artistic brilliance.


The 2017 Color of the Year was PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery. Just like a magical spring day, this refreshing shade of yellow-green instantly reminds us of how nature’s greens revive, restore and renew our spirits after a long, cold winter. A life-affirming shade, Greenery is also symbolic of the pursuit of personal passions and liveliness.

At SHP, we’re always looking for ways to integrate the Pantone Color of the Year into our designs—when it makes sense to do so, of course. Variations of Greenery, Classic Blue and Illuminating have been particularly popular among our clients in recent years. For instance, check out the lively color palette featured throughout the new Harrison Central Elementary School, a K-12 in Harrison Hills, Ohio. American School & University even honored the school’s interior design with a Silver Citation!