Pantone colours graphic design

Keep up with graphic design trends – colour theory

Usually Pantone release one ‘colour of the year’ per year but, strangely, this year they have released two. The research behind choosing a colour is surprisingly extensive and according to the folks at Pantone the new decision is based on observing current events, social landscapes and modern attitudes. In their own words they state that, “As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as an antidote to modern day stresses, welcoming colours that psychologically fulfill our yearning for reassurance and security are becoming more prominent.” Whilst that may sound a bit pretentious and “artsy fartsy” to some, let’s consider for a moment the science behind our emotional connections to colour. This is perhaps the most interesting and most controversial aspect of marketing and the influence of colour on our emotional state largely depends on the settings in which we see them and any existing or past associations we have with that colour. While there is little evidence to suggest that colours alone can precisely influence specific moods, there are colours that carry strong associations to certain moods, many of these associations come from the world of marketing (think of the use of red in the big, fast-food brands) and it’s perhaps from these types of associations that defines how we subconsciously react to colour.


We have been observing a steady shift in digital design towards a particular aesthetic that utilises softer shades, pastel colours, monochromatic background images and a general refinement in subtle animation for a while now and this move towards calmer, minimal and refined solutions is reflected in the new Pantone colours and the subsequent design and images used to promote them. For us designers it marks the recognition of a steadily emerging ideology in design culture and it is our responsibility to do it justice. This is not to say it’s relevant in every situation, though we should be mindful of what context will allow this approach to sing.


Inevitably the colours of 2016 will be used as a key reference point for the palettes of many designers. Expect to see them used extensively in design and advertisments for food, fashion, beauty and cosmetics in the next few months. If you’d like a primer on basic colour theory, there’s a useful article on Jen Reviews.


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