As Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year, Classic Blue hints at dependability, trustworthiness and blue skies ahead.
How we see this true-blue hue in nature is the starting point for most people, according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “That’s what has the deepest effect on our psyches. From an international perspective, people all over the world have that same kind of reaction, based on testing that we’ve done in other countries. That dusky, midnight blue speaks of the day winding down, a time to seek refuge, to seek quiet. That’s one of the biggest reasons why people attach that feeling of stability and constancy. Every day we have a 24-hour cycle. We know it’s going to be lighter in the morning and then gradually leading up to getting darker at night. So, our circadian rhythm is so tuned into that time of day as preparation for night time.”
The psychological influence of color on people’s daily lives is undeniable, according to Eiseman, who emphasized how many can have a visceral reaction. Synesthesia — where one of the five senses can involuntarily trigger a reaction in another one of the senses — is integral to color. “Some people call it a condition to be able to taste something and to see a color pop into your head. I don’t. I think it’s an amazing thing to have. There has been a lot more attention paid to synesthesia in the last year or so,” Eiseman said. “Some social anthropologists say it’s needed for survival.”
Testimony to the strength of Classic Blue can be found increasingly in the automotive and digital industries, which are developing more products in this shade, Eiseman said. Even from a wellness standpoint, food scientists have encouraged consumers to eat more blueberries and other blue-tinted foods. That advice is not aesthetically driven but is rooted in the benefits of anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, Eiseman noted. “It just happens when you get a higher degree of anthocyanins, it appears as a blue in the food. As a result, we’re being told to eat more blue foods.”
On board with the multisensory approach, Pantone is presenting a forward spin for 2020 in revealing its Color of the Year. For the first time, the standout shade is being interpreted as a multisensory approach. Just as brands recognize that the visual is not enough to entice to shoppers, Pantone is presenting a more immersive experience. The sight, sound, smell, taste and texture approach is a first for the Pantone Color Institute, which aims to lead its global audience to “a richer and more rewarding relationship with color.”
The idea is that by not just seeing Classic Blue, but hearing, touching and smelling the Color of the Year, not just more people but a more diversified representation will be inclined to engage with it. For a limited time, The Inside is making a custom fabric that embodies the spirit of Pantone’s 19-4052 Classic Blue. In addition, Audio UX partnered with Pantone to develop 200 samples and loops that interpret Classic Blue in a LANDR sound pack. For the Color of the Year reveal, select media will get a sampling of these exclusive items, as well as a candle and jelly — both of which were made by the Swiss company Firmenich. And Tealeaves has created a customized 2020 Color of the Year tea blend. The see-hear-touch-smell-and-taste package is meant to make people consider color beyond the visual, with the aim being that designers and other creatives will develop experiences that are visceral as well as visual.
As for why color leads to such a sensory reaction, Eiseman said, “Even from the time that we are tiny children, most people can recall something from their childhood involving that creative outlet. If you give a box of crayons to a child — any child, anywhere — they get very excited, start pulling the crayons out of the box and immediately know they have to scribble with it. It’s one of our first inherent reactions to having to be creative.”
With the 2020 presidential election approaching, Democrats need not read too much into the Color of Year, given Pantone’s apolitical stance. Looking at the world in more general terms, these uncertain times call for a steadfast, reassuring color like Classic Blue, Eiseman said. The shade is more traditional than the 2019 choice of Living Coral, as well as the 2018 one of Ultra Violet.
However similar the shade may be to Facebook’s corporate color, that is purely coincidental, Eiseman said. “I can’t speak to why they [Facebook] made that choice. But companies in general, many industries, have embraced blue, particularly the Classic Blue, because of the inherent feeling of dependability, trust, loyalty and all of those very positive responses that people have. That’s been known for a long time and it becomes even more apparent as time goes on. It makes people feel like they have something that they can hang onto. We call it an ‘anchoring’ color.’”
While this is the 21st time that Pantone had revealed a Color of the Year, other organizations like Benjamin Moore have their own selections. Even Shutterstock released its 2020 Color Trends report Tuesday after analyzing billions of pixel data from images downloaded, and then mapping each pixel to its closest named hex code. The fiery Lush Lava, minty Aqua Menthe and navy-rooted Phantom Blue ranked first through third respectively. Despite the influx of color trend forecasters that have jumped on the brigade, Eiseman said increased competition boosts the public’s interest and curiosity about color. “Absolutely — you’ve heard me say this so many times that it sounds like a cliché. To start that conversation — wherever it’s going to take you — can be very revealing. When people start to talk about color and the attachments that they have and the impressions that they get from color, is really quite magical.”
Classic Blue had ranked third on Pantone’s spring-summer 2020 Top 10 colors. The Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle, is a believer, having worn Classic Blue dresses from Jason Wu and Roksanda Athena. National Football League fans of the Seattle Seahawks also sport the shade for more game-day viewing. And the 2020 winner relays a certain sense of optimism, too, in that “it can offer the kind of perspective that we can get what we are looking for in the world in general,” Eiseman said.
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