Pantone Color of the Year

June 2, 2021

For the last 20 years Pantone, the company that created a universal language of color, has announced a Color of the Year. This year, for the first time in history, they chose two: Ultimate Gray, a cloudy-sky color, and Illuminating, a highlighter shade of yellow.

Pantone doesn’t choose their Color of the Year at random; it’s a lengthy process they take seriously. To choose the color, the company hosts representatives from various nations’ color standards groups for a two-day summit at a secret location in a European city.


For two days the color professionals present and debate. Then they choose a color, and the color has meaning and significance. For example, 2020’s color was Classic Blue (Pantone 19-4052). The group chose the color because it would “instilling calm, confidence, and connection.” At the time, the committee had no way to know how important those qualities would be for enduring the next 12 months.

“We want to ensure that the colors we select reflects what’s taking place in the culture at a specific moment in time,” says Laurie Pressman, Pantone Color Institute vice president. “With color and context so intertwined, there really are reasons why a color family or individual color comes into prominence what it does.”

Pantone’s color experts comb the world of fashion, art, entertainment, travel, technology, and film to find influential patterns. The pandemic, a global shift in reframing social and cultural values, and the way our lives have changed had a big impact on their choices. The committee didn’t set out to choose two colors, but realized that one couldn’t exist without the other. The committee believes Ultimate Gray feels dependable, wise, and resilient. Illuminating conveys light, awareness, intuition, hope, and energy. “We need to be uplifted, we need the optimism, we need that positivity,” Pressman says. “But we also need the strength and resilience in order to move through this time, and we will get there.”

See more photos of how we use this color combo on our portfolio page.