The start of 2021 has offered mixed emotions.

A new year presents new hope, which is so needed after the tragedy, turmoil and chaos 2020 brought. The United States will usher in a new presidential administration today, and slowly, people around the world are being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Nonetheless, the first few weeks of this year have still been difficult, following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. And of course, COVID continues to sicken people despite the vaccine rollout.

How can we balance the weight of these opposing events? How can we hold both the somberness of what has happened and optimism for what could come?

Pantone, the provider of professional color language standards, has managed this perfectly through its selection of the 2021 Colors of the Year. It picked Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a sunshiny yellow, to represent this dichotomy.

 “The selection of two independent colors 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 color or one person, it’s about more than one,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”

While Pantone is closely connected to fashion, interior design and graphic design, its color identification system certainly applies to food and food packaging. Pantone has offered some suggestions for using this year’s color combination.

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

Ultimate Gray and Illuminating in packaging and multimedia design
Pairing Illuminating, the color 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 multimedia design.  

This pairing offers something to consider as manufacturers develop food products and design packaging this year, especially if they want to convey the messages of strength, resilience, vitality and hope.

Editor Crystal Lindell and I always look forward to Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement, but we knew this year’s choice would be particularly poignant, provided all that has happened. We thought 2020’s Color of the Year, Classic Blue, was fitting, so hopefully Ultimate Gray and Illuminating will deliver what they promise.