Why Pantone chose a vibrant shade of purple in such dark and worrying times.
In these dark, chaotic times, it would not be unrealistic for someone, when asked what color will represent 2018, to look around and guess, say, black.
Or maybe deep, bloody burgundy. Fake-tan orange? At the very least, soot gray.
Any of them would seemingly match different shades of the general mood.
And yet the self-proclaimed “color authorities” at Pantone did their analysis and declared the color of 2018 to be … Ultra Violet.
Yup, the highlighter-purple shade that has also been the name of a Warhol superstar; a 2006 dystopian action film; an online activist community founded to combat sexism and violence toward women; and a kind of light that can cause skin cancer.
Ultra Violet can be many things to many people.
It “communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.
It is found in the cosmos (think of all those swirling purple nebulae!), the wellness movement (amethyst crystals!) and was a favorite color of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who, Eiseman says, used to wear a purple cape when he was trying to be creative. Ditto Wagner, who liked to surround himself with purple when he was composing. Also, of course, Prince.
“It’s also the most complex of all colors,” she says, “because it takes two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed — blue and red — and brings them together to create something new.”
That’s an optimistic view of things. And, if the current standoff in Washington is any indication, one that seems more like wishful thinking than reality. But that, it turns out, is part of the point. At least this year.
“It’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today,” says Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. Not, note, “what’s going on in our world today.” Which is kind of an interesting distinction. It suggests that Pantone is not just observing and predicting, it’s going proactive.
In the past, Pantone has skewed more reflective. But for 2018, Eiseman says, “We wanted to pick something that brings hope and an uplifting message.” This is effectively the color-psychology equivalent of the theory that says that when you make yourself smile, you feel happier. Or the “Field of Dreams” mantra: “If you build it, they will come.”
In the Pantone version, if you wear it/drink it/drive it, solutions may appear. That’s a pretty ambitious belief. Will people buy it?
Well, at this stage, a lot of us may try anything. Gird yourself. We may be in for a new kind of purple reign.