Pantone 2021 Color of the year and UI

But let's start from the top. If you have no idea what Pantone is let me quickly explain: Pantone is an American company that's been around from 1962 and they're most famous for creating the "standards" for picking color representations. It basically means that they created a matching real-life color values to the ones used by most software. When you designed a real-life product or something for print, you were able to predict the exact hue it will end up with after being produced. This was huge then, and obviously necessary. But since 2000 Pantone has also decided to come up with a "color of the year". I mentioned last year, that their predictions don't really match the digital product trends, and it seems that it's going to be the same again.

pantone color of the year in user interfaces

Pantone for 2019

In 2019 they decided the color of the year is going to be Coral - a slightly muted pink hue. The reality of that year was that most designs went in a direction of purple and dark blue hues instead. Obviously when each year begins, many designers try to "accept" the trend and do some portfolio show-pieces using the Color of the Year. They're mostly done for some initial exposure, but real products don't get influenced by the color of the year, unless they happen to actually have that color as part of their brand.

pantone 2019 on dribbble

Pantone for 2020

2020 brought a dark, desaturated blue as their color of the year, and maybe it was a prediction of the things to come - medical gowns and hospitals. But that year in UI was the exact opposite of that sad color. In 2020, maybe as a reaction to the lockdowns, we experienced an outburst of colorful, bright and positive looking designs. Friendly, rounded corners were matched with soft blurs, a tiny bit of glassmorphism and soft shadows. Friendly all the way, and nothing like the 2020 Color of the year.

Pantone 2021 Colors of the year

Pantone for 2021

So now in 2021, Pantone has chosen not one but two colors of the year. One of them is a muted gray called "Ultimate Gray", and the other is a saturated yellow called "Illuminating". They're of course a marketing driven metaphor of how humanity will transform from the gray into the illuminating warmth and happiness of the yellow. But once again, yellow is not a color that works great in UI's. It requires other colors to be darker to match it well, and most companies simply don't fit that vibe. And Grey is too "Universal" to be considered a prediction - it's like saying that Black and White will likely be used in UI's. Well... DUH!.


But that's all ok. I think having events and picking colors of the year is overall a positive tradition. They're just one moment in time however, not really influencing the digital product industry. We're lucky to be making our own trends, without huge corporations dictating them, and I think it's beautiful too.

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