All About Pantone’s Fall Colors--And Why They Matter

By Claire Ehlinger

We are all affected by design, and color is a powerful tool that can mean starkly different things based on the context of design. Think about the color red: it can conjure feelings of love and celebration during the holidays, but change the tint of your color and the context within its use, and it can communicate anger, aggression, and violence. To the people who deal in product development and design this is a subconscious dialog that is of never-ending importance.

One of the tools in the tool box for the design community is the Pantone color system. The Pantone color system has been keeping the red targets of Target the same exact shade of red and the orange of Home Depot so uniformly orange for years. It's important to be consistent with every bit of a brand as big and popular as Target or Home Depot. You’re building confidence with your consumer through branding, so every detail matters. I’ll let Miranda Priestly drive the point home with this memorable quote from The Devil Wears Prada:

You think [fashion] has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select... I don't know... that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns... And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.

That’s harsh Miranda, but not without merit. I don’t consciously look to the Pantone fall colors as an influencer in my day to day life. But it informs me as a consumer and a designer. These colors aren’t ground breaking and we’ve seen them all before but by the time we see these colors integrated into our favorite coffee thermoses they are a step up from the usual.

The Pantone fall colors are the way I decorate my headspace and I believe they are a visual coffee that wakes you up, sharpens your sensory experience, brings you into the “now,” and reduces cancer (ok maybe not but I seriously suggest you look up the health benefits of drinking coffee). That’s what makes a life: being in the moment, recognizing changing seasons and our changing lives; when I get on board with a trend or “new” Pantone color it's just another way to celebrate life’s beauty and the moment that we are in.

This year’s fall Pantone colors evoke small forgotten memories of the season’s delights. Here’s what they mean to me in my everyday life:

Dried herb and desert sage: Those leaves that fall that haven’t turned colors; they are just a dry crunchy green. Also the color of witches, zombies, and Frankenstein's monster.

Oak buff: The color of corn and soybeans drying out in the fields that are absolutely everywhere in Iowa (where I’m from). (EXTRA things that are that color: the color of the busted open seeds on the ground if you happen to be in Georgia or the color of a purse I had in highschool to start the year when they banned backpacks in classrooms. A purse isn’t a backpack, Mr. Thornton. Get off my case.)

Cashmere rose: My favorite gel pen that I could write on black with and also the color of my very stylish earbuds.

Cadmium orange: A color that’s everywhere during October, the best month of the year (we have lots of Libras a Green Gate)!

Reflecting Pond: The color of the night sky in your favorite childhood books of mostly pictures.

Stormy Weather: My favorite color growing up, a mixture of grey and blue.

Amethyst Orchid: A color very similar to the 2014 Pantone color of the year, Radiant Orchid. A gorgeous color that inspires calm introspection and obviously has staying power.

Marsala: Finally the 2015 Color of the Year. What a color; I love it. It’s a tough but beautiful color, the color of brick and ponderosa pine bark. It reminds me of my dad’s old sketchbooks from the 60’s, my childhood summer camp, and beautifully old rusted cars. Marsala isn’t really a pretty color it’s just a color with a lot of character which is actually better if you ask me.

Instead of comparing this years Pantone color to last years I’m going to compare it to all the past Pantone colors going all the way back to 2000 when they started this tradition. The colors of past years seem to just blend together into a pastel beach ball. They all sort of seem the same, all of them good on their own but seeming to clash with each other very easily. I think we needed Marsala to be our 2015 Pantone color to bring some diversity and toughness back into our lives, to remind us to be complementary people and to not get too wrapped up in ourselves.

I’m aware you can assign significance to anything so maybe this yearly Pantone color will always give me a chance to reflect. Either way I’m excited to get a new Pantone color in a few months to make fun of why they chose it and then let it grow on me once again.




Posted on November 13, 2015 and filed under Inspiration, Design.