Pantone’s color of the year for 2019 is “Living Coral”. If that phrase doesn’t immediately paint a mental picture, you might be sane. Described as “vivifying and effervescent”, this color represents one of the most vivid and chromatic ecosystems on this spinning rock called Earth, a coral reef, one that dies when exposed to fresh air.

              Pantone’s press release describes Living Coral as “an animating, life-affirming shade of orange, with golden undertones”. One might think this a strange word combo to describe Silly Putty Pink, however there is an entire Pantone Color Institute devoted to assigning loquacious euphemisms to unpopular shades. “Loquacious Euphemism” may well be 2020’s color of the year (otherwise known as Plaid). Few colors, if any, can boast “life affirming” in their instant feel registers. Baywatch Red may seem life affirming to young men being resuscitated under Pamela Anderson’s heaving lungs, EKG Line Green comes to mind as another in the life-affirmed category. Pantone insists Living Coral has earned a space in this upper echelon of pulse recognition as well. Hmmm.

Orange is the New Life Affirmation

               Society has chosen the color Orange as its Lives-Are-Threatened Warning shade, bathing every Construction Sign, Cone, and Emergency Flasher in orange. Yellow = Slow Down. Red = STOP! Combine the two and you get “LOOK OUT!”, or “orange”. Thus an animated, life-affirming shade of orange, with golden undertones, sounds like the last thing you’d want to produce at a Urine Screening, but Color of the Year? Question marks gathered. It should be noted that I am in the Interior Design industry in the same way OJ Simpson is in the legal field, by way of marriage. My wife is the fashion genius. I’m the one asking her which brown shoes to pair with black pants.

               To their credit, Pantone’s website has scrubbed “orange” from the ingredient list altogether. The website now describes Living Coral thus: Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment. Representing the fusion of modern life, PANTONE Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.

               I looked around my natural settings, lo and behold I found something close to Living Coral lurking inside a spent container of Pepto-Bismal. Comfort and buoyancy bottled! I found a couple more near misses with a shaker of Himalayan pink salt and some Heinz Mayochup I’d bought as a gag. Unfortunately this “fusion of modern life” was absent from our humble home premises, so I stepped forth into the outside world intent on locating this nurturing color that assuredly appears in our natural surroundings, somewhere, somehow.

             I came close. A Dora the Explorer lunchbox displayed in a thrift store window showed promise as the orange shirt/pink short ensemble had sun-faded to a near Living Coral collaboration. A neighboring shop featured a stem of dead coral in Beached Bleach White, shape but not shade. A flock of plastic yard flamingos came close, as did the urinal mats at Applebee’s. Living Coral proved impressively elusive in the wild. So elusive in fact, that I began to question Pantone’s color declaration authority altogether. Could this season’s rouge be a ruse?

The Emperor’s New Living Coral Clothing Line

             For 20 years, Pantone’s 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 (according to their website). I paused after reading that, imagining for a moment the many thousands of Living Coral colored chairs, couches, and ceramics there must be currently drifting across the world aboard shipping vessels. The astonishment of every wrench wielding dockworker who applies crowbar to crate, unleashing a torrent of Living Coral coated items onto a world that’s amazingly unfamiliar with it.

                Laurie Pressman, vp of the Pantone Color Institute, claims “A global team of color experts comb the world looking for new color influences.” With scuba gear apparently! Next year’s Whale Tonsil Brown is sure to be a hit. A global team of color experts sounds like the worst Superhero origin story ever concocted, but their influence is legendary, so I pushed the DeLorean to 88mph and went back to view the Hansel vs. Grettel rainbow pathways they’d previously paved.

10 years of global color experting has produced a PAAS Easter Egg Coloring Kit.

EDITOR’S NOTE: My wife, the esteemed Denise White of “The Bianci Group” and “MDBG” fame, issued one rule when caving into my request to write a blog on her website; Offer Some Benefit, don’t just be a smartass. So here goes…

Putting the pan in Pantone is only productive if we can wring some creative juices from the pulp friction. Be you Maker or Merchant, the annual color wheel rollout has a market effect. A quick Googling of “Living Coral Items” unveils a plethora of Silly Putty shaded items ranging from Kitchenaid Mixers to Microfiber Bath Mats, to drapes, side tables, chairs, even faux fur rugs straight out of a Dr. Seuss fever dream. There’s a good chance your target customer might drag some Living Coral items home from Target. I’m not suggesting you take advantage of the color blind, but every hero needs a sidekick. That Living Coral blender’s going to be set on something. Better that something compliments instead of clashes. But what color-from-another-mother could possibly entertain Aquaman’s orange marmalade without stealing the stage?


              Introducing the Stantone Color of the Year: Rocky’s Sweat Pants Gray. A non-animated, neutral anti-toxin capable of co-existing with Living Coral in a manner that won’t lead to Ralph vs Potsie duct tape border delineations dividing one’s living spaces into tolerable spectral zones. Rocky’s Sweat Pants Gray is so versatile (How versatile is it?) it bonds well with the entire past decade of Pantone pickings. That’s a feat! Every eye gouging color stick can be saddled to Rocky’s Sweat Pants for a smooth duet. Yes, even you Marsala.
            When the Color Wheel is wobbling, what are we taught to do? Turn into the skid! Think of Rocky Sweat Pants gray as the life-affirming concrete barrier keeping Pantone’s technicolor floodwaters from breaching. Beauty is beauty in spite of perfection.

             Whether Pantone’s color of the year choices require twelve months of globe trotting , or simply one drunk monkey chucking lawn darts at a rainbow sticker, I’m not here to judge. No problems, only solutions. Once those Living Coral items migrate to the discount bin, you’ll be wise to have a closet full of Rocky’s Sweat Pants Gray items to pair them with. Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.


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