Observing the changes taking place on the streets of edgy areas in uber-creative cities around the world gives me the signals needed to hone in on the many messages and themes driving consumer trends. On these same streets, it’s the graffiti and street art that have been a primary resource for identifying color trends that move from their cityscape to the fashion, home, automotive and CPG (consumer package goods) landscapes that people are most familiar with. Behind it all, is a color conspiracy of influence. There is a global network of graffiti artists who are represented by top brands in spray paint production and supply. Brands like Montana, out of Germany, where Berlin is often top on this list of trend kitchens, even outranking London, whose product lines include Black and Gold, which run in the neighborhood of eight dollars per can. No street artist shows up to begin a piece or production without a minimum of two cans per color. The biggest rookie mistake, in doing graffiti as an art form, is running out of a color you still needed to finish your piece. So, to be ready at all times, in some instances, the manufacturers are providing free spray paint to these artists in exchange for a tag in their piece.
It’s Advertising 101: I’ll give you this, if you put my name on that. However, it doesn’t stop there, as the paints they are providing are, quite often, also pre-selected by the manufacturer. In other words, the artists are creating their pieces with a provided palette. Now, see how the entire world of neighborhood street art ‘alleries’, were being done in the same colors at the same time, with the added awareness of a universal message being communicated to an audience of observers, collecting and connecting, the writing on the wall.
If you just so happen to be a peripatetic prognosticator and have, not just the ability, but also the responsibility to capture these areas, from around the world, then you can safely and effectively use that information to inspire creation and innovation in just about any industry, but especially so in fragrances and flavors. This unique method of foresight enabled me to accurately call the PANTONE® Color of The Year, two years in advance, three years in a row.
The press release announcing Color of The Year has been published in early December every year since 1999. The story around these color selections is generally a happy one, as it’s always a ‘good news’ event, for a global audience, right around the holidays. Color of the Year will never have a pessimistic outlook reflected in its tonality, hue, or name. Everything will be okay. Everything is cool. Even when the color is hot. Throughout the year 2010, the streets were burning alive in “Flame Orange” (15-1157 TCX), but by December 2011, an obviously less threateningly named hue, “Tangerine Tango” (17-1463 TCX), which was essentially just a shade or three from an exact match to Flame Orange, was named by Pantone as their choice for Color of The Year 2012. And rightfully so. Nobody wants to hear messages of the earth cracking open, lava spilling out from its core, dragon’s breath, and other images of the streets afire around the holidays, even if that was the mood being depicted by the artists during that time. It just wasn’t a positive enough story to be told by a company looking to sell color communications and standards. Just like Montana, or Ironlak - another big player in the spray paint for street artists supply and influence business, which was created in Australia in 2002 to be a more affordable, and some say, better smelling, paint. Their message, before even getting into the hands of the writers, says it all, “We encourage you to explore and be inspired – before going on to add some colour to the world.”
The Pantone® Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design for over twenty years now. The number of media impressions, worldwide, is staggering. The truth of the matter is that the selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis by color experts associated with the Pantone Color Institute, like color expert, Leatrice Eiseman, and my colorful friends, Tod Schulman, David Shah, and Laurie Pressman, as they comb the world looking for new color influences that can best reflect the zeitgeist. In more recent years, that process seems to have reversed itself, in that it’s the zeitgeist that is driving the color selection. It’s never just about the color. It’s always about the message that they feel needs to be conveyed for the year ahead. Color of the Year is really a little like the Academy Awards, in that ‘Best Picture,’ announced during the Oscar® ceremonies in March every year, is actually a film that was out the year before, and then gets a turbo boost of promotion for the coming year. On top of which, for Pantone®, it doesn’t hurt if the color also happens to go well, in a complementary way, with the prior year’s selection. This is why, if you look carefully, you might notice a pattern of a pendulum swing in their choice. Orange to Green, Purple to Yellow, and so on. It’s not a fact, per se, but it certainly is a trend.
If you've read this far, Thank You, and here's a little Bonus piece:
In seven days - December 1st, to be exact - Pantone will announce their selection for Color of The Year 2023. I've known what it is (will be) since July, but no longer because of my observation skills. That signal pattern is no longer valid, however it is still about staying connected. I've kept my relationship with Pantone since that fateful day Vicky and I first met, and to this day I consider her, and all my contacts at Pantone - like Laurie, Tod, and now Alex - to be more like friends. Each of us, in our own way, is trying to make the world just a little more colorful - or tastier, or even pleasant smelling, as it were.
We're ALL colorful characters in this crazy prism and it's how your light shines that provides one's unique place in the rainbow. You can quote me on that.