This year Pantone announced PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating, as the Pantone Colour of the Year selection for 2021, two independent colours that come together to create an aspirational colour pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine-filled day. I think it is somewhat uninspiring, to be honest. 


This is because we’re all supposed to be feeling ‘optimistic’ and ‘hopeful’ about our future.  I don’t know about you but I kind of prefer what one wag posted on LinkedIn recently and nominated Pantone 4635 C ‘Classic Shit’ as his choice for Pantone Colour of the Year. I think it more or less sums up how people are really feeling.



But below is the BS that Pantone has come up with to justify its selection. Read on Macduff. 


As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality. Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colours of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.  


 “The selection of two independent coolers highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one colour or one person, it’s about more than one. The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute. “Practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”


A marriage of strength and optimism, Ultimate Gray and Illuminating do not have to be used in equal proportions, either colour can take precedence whether for apparel, beauty, home furnishings, product design or packaging.   


Illuminating punctuated by a touch of Ultimate Gray conveys a message of sunshine and strength. Enduring Ultimate Gray provides a great bouncing off point with Illuminating bringing in some brightness by way of a scarf, footwear, handbag, shawl, tops. With its energetic presence, the marriage of Ultimate Gray and Illuminating is a great combination for activewear. The high visibility contrast of Illuminating and Ultimate Gray adds to its appeal for outerwear 


A mix of warm and cool tones, combining Ultimate Gray and Illuminating in hair or nail makes a dramatic statement. Illuminating sparkles and shimmers when paired with Ultimate Gray in eye make-up. 


Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are a great combination to set the mood in any room in the home adding a dose of sunshine and positivity. Juxtaposing Illuminating with Ultimate Gray in table linens, sheeting and home accessories including pillows and tabletop infuses vitality and liveliness.  Painting a front door in bright yellow Illuminating conveys a warm and welcoming message when supported by solid and dependable Ultimate Gray in the exterior finishes.  The ideal combination for any office whether in the home or in a commercial space with Ultimate Gray providing the firm foundation for Illuminating, a vibrant yellow that heightens awareness and enhances intuition, lighting the way to the intellectual curiosity, originality, and resourcefulness of an open mind.  


Pairing Illuminating, the colour of highest visibility and reflectivity with resilient Ultimate Gray produces a visually noticeable message no matter where it appears.  The coupling of friendly Illuminating with quietly assuring Ultimate Gray infuses a message of vitality into a firm foundation of reliability, wisdom and experience for packaging and multi-media design.  


Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are paired with versatile hues in a series of five palettes, available to designers as inspiration to incorporate into designs via the Pantone Connect digital colour platform. Pantone Connect is available on mobile app and web, and as an extension app for Adobe Creative Cloud to make capturing, curating, and designing with Pantone Colour easy and accessible. 


A featured Colour of the Year page has all relevant colour information for using Ultimate Gray and Illuminating across various physical and digital design media.