What’s behind Pantone’s dual colour of the year

Karen Haller 01
Karen Haller

Pantone Colour of the Year 2016

At the beginning of every year we find ourselves awash with countless colour trend predictions, forecasts and colour of the year. This year was no exception, but there was one unusual thing that caught everyone by surprise – for the first time one company announced dual colours of the year.

I think this was a stroke of very clever marketing. Colour trends are big business and companies know it.

So, coming out with dual colours of the year certainly got Pantone noticed in an ever-growing sea of predictions.

Bucking the trend
Pantone is known for its standardised colour matching system. Since 2000 they have been announcing their colour of the year.

This year they make history by choosing two colours: Rose Quartz and Serenity.

But the most significant thing about this is asking the question why they couldn’t have chosen Rose Quartz without Serenity.

Pantone 2016 Colour of the Year


Behind most colour predictions is a team who research, observe and discuss based on many influencing factors, including economic, social, and political. Out of that comes their prediction for colour of the year.

Pantone explained its choice of the blended Rose Quartz and Serenity as a response to consumers seeking “mindfulness and well-being as an antidote to modern day stresses.”  It went on to say that “colours that psychologically fulfil our yearning for reassurance and security are becoming more prominent.”

But what really caught my attention is how Pantone talked about the changing views of gender perception played in their choice, because to me this is the main reason they broke the mould and chose two colours.

In Pantone’s words “In many parts of the world we are experiencing a gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted colour trends throughout all other areas of design. This more unilateral approach to colour is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using colour as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to colour usage.”

Blurring the gender lines
Symbolically, especially in Western cultures, pink and blue represents the female and male cultural stereotypes. By blending these two stereotypes it’s possibly Pantone perceives the gender divide closing, the lines of what was traditionally considered masculine and feminine blurring.

The irony is the whole ‘pink is for girls’, ‘blue for boys’ is entirely made up – yup… it’s pure marketing. Back in the 1940’s a US department store marketed this idea and it stuck.

When I have mothers telling me they are worried their little boys love pink, I ask them one simple question, “Does your son love cuddles?” Of course he does, they answer. To which my reply is, “If cuddles were a colour it would be pink.” It certainly makes them rethink their own personal gender associations to pink.

Colour Quote_If cuddles were a colour they would be pink

Looking at the psychology of soft pink, it represents nurturing love, kindness, compassion, cuddles and hugs. It’s physically soothing. All those good things we need on a basic human level. To say that pink is the exclusive domain of women is to deny men the freedom to embrace and express these feelings.

Looking at the psychology of soft blue, it’s mentally soothing. As Pantone says, it brings feelings of “respite and relaxation even in turbulent times” as it helps calm the mind.

I think the reason they put these two colours together, it’s an actual reflection of what is happening in our society at the moment. Interestingly pink appears to be based on psychology and blue on cultural symbolism.

For me Pantone’s choice of these two colours brings to the fore the question – can colours define a gender? I hope this breaks down the preconceived idea that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. We are living in a society where it’s more acceptable then ever for men to choose pink expressing their softer side.

Whilst this is an interesting social statement, the question remains, though, how well will these two colours translate into design.

Want to know more about colour?
If you, like me, are fascinated by colour and know there’s more to colour than meets the eye, and you’re interested in a new way of working with colour that works alongside your intuition then take a look at my colour courses over here.

Karen x

P.S. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to download your free copy of my e-book The 10 Myths that Limit You using Colour Effectively.


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  1. Jenny on February 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Karen, what a great post. I really hadn’t thought about the dual colours from the gender point of view but it makes perfect sense.
    Will come back to read more!

    • admin on February 28, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Jenny,

      Great you enjoyed reading the post. I wanted to explore their comment on “…gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using colour as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged…” Make sure you’re on my mailing list so you don’t miss my monthly colour & design newsletter! Looking forward to chatting with you again x

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