Pantone Predicts a Green 2017

By Chris Dickman
Founding Editor, Graphics.com

For some time now Pantone has annually announced something it calls its Color of the Year. And last year it extended the concept by picking not one but two colors, with 2016 predicted to be dominated by the colors shown at left. At the time the firm stated that "Providing contrast to the current restless and hectic lives people are living right now, the harmonious shades of our Pantone Color of the Year 2016 evoke feelings of calmness, well-being and understanding." So apparently we didn't experience "restless and hectic" lives before and won't in the future?

Well, here we are again and this time around the color for 2017 is PANTONE 15-0343, dubbed Greenery, as shown at right. Pantone tells us that "Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”

It's gotten to the point where we're beginning to wonder just what this Color of the Year initiative is really all about. As the Marquis de Sade once observed, "Those who define are the masters" and Pantone indeed speaks of itself as "the global color authority." So perhaps declaring a particular color as somehow being significant in the coming year is a reflection of that.

In the same vein one could envisage a culinary "authority" declaring coriander as next year's global condiment of choice. Why not the smell, sound or taste of the year? The fact is, you could pick just about any Pantone color at random and make up a backstory about its significance for the coming year. And the world's a big place, made up of many cultures. Is it still appropriate for a Western "authority" to tell us all what color will be globally significant for next year? Or perhaps people in other countries and cultures can make up their own minds? It might be time to move beyond such cultural hegemony.

Then there's the yearly focus of this pronouncement. Once upon a time yearly trends were a thing but increasingly we live in a world dominated by "fast fashion" and even speedier iterations in which what's hot comes and goes in a matter of weeks or days — a year is an eternity in modern product life cycles. So perhaps the time for such prognostications has passed?

This initiative remains an excellent one for Pantone to receive free media attention. But for designers and consumers, what compelling reason is there to collectively embrace a particular shade of color?

Just to put things in perspective, that charming Hermès Birkin bag in the photo below will set you back more than $10,000. Which as it happens is almost exactly the global median income per person. Just the thing to "evoke feelings of calmness, well-being and understanding."