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Living Coral, The Colour Of The Year?

It’s that time of year again. Every year Art and Designs enthusiasts wait fervently for the Pantone colour of the year reveal, much like myself. Pantone has established a reputation as the world’s leading colour specialists, so it comes as no surprise that their colours yield so much influence over the Art and Design industry.

Pantone have announced their official colour of 2019. And what a colour it is. After last year’s disappointment named Ultraviolet, I was expecting Pantone to redeem themselves and reveal a colour that was bolder, progressive and in tune with the upcoming design trends. Ideally I’d want the colour of the year to whet my appetite for the new design trends which are lined up for the year. Pantone ultimately missed the mark last year, by picking a harsh and jarring shade of purple which teetered on the borderline of arrogance and hostility.

I’ve always been partial to a bit of coral, I love the retro vibe associated with this pinkish orange colour, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Living Coral as a colour isn’t too bad; it’s just come with the wrong name and wrong explanation. I’m struggling to link this colour with the design trends of the present and the future. It is a colour which will be difficult to place in homes and spaces, very much like Ultra violet. An acquired taste and definitely in a league of its own, but it does have potential.

‘Living Coral is also sociable and spirited and encourages light hearted activity’ is what Pantone uses to describe the colour. Is this true? Does this colour encourage light hearted activity? From a technical perspective, this colour is made up of two dominant primary colours, yellow and red. Colour psychology would place these two colours as stimulants used to get the blood pumping. Bold intense colours which represent action, danger and living life on the edge. Colours with blue and green bases would be far more ideal for light hearted activity. For a colour that is supposedly calming and reflective, it lacks a very prominent calming quality.

From a design perspective, the yellow and golden tinge gives it the ability to contrast and complement well with darker intense tones such as emerald, navy and dark grey, and could go beautifully with dark wood and brass. In the hands of an experienced designer, Living Coral can look sophisticated and stylish. The intensity of these colours and materials makes it near impossible to encourage ‘light hearted activity’. Pairing this colour with white, pale neutrals and pastels would give off a very strong 70’s and retro vibe, which again has limited universal appeal.

The name, Living Coral, is all kinds of wrong and the reasoning behind it fails to relay the severity of the situation surrounding the state of our Coral Reefs. It takes inspiration from the most biologically diverse eco systems on this Planet. Coral Reefs are amazing and the intricacies of these organisms are beyond mind blowing. Unfortunately Coral Reefs are dying out, because of our selfishness and complete and utter disregard for the life around us. Rising sea temperatures as a result of global warming have turned these vibrantly beautiful coloured coral to nothing but limp colourless skeletons struggling to stay alive.

The irony lies in the name. Living Coral when Coral is dying. I understand how the aim of this colour is to raise awareness of the plight of Coral, but it’s done in poor taste. This shade of Coral doesn’t exist in the real world; this shade is an ideal, something fantastical and not reality. If Pantone really wanted to make a statement about this cause, they should have picked a shade of colour which reflected Coral in its truest form as it is today. That would have more of an impact. Sure it might not be a pretty colour, but that’s the harsh reality of the situation. Coral Reefs are no longer ‘pretty’, they are struggling and dying at a shocking rate. And that is our fault, we as humans have caused this. To showcase and promote an ideal and fantasy is not going to shake people into action.

‘Pantones colour of the year harks at naivety, not optimism’ says Michelle Ogudehin in an article for Dezeen. The reasoning behind the colour is naive, it misses the mark. Pantone have a platform where they can truly make a difference and unfortunately they haven’t delivered. I love Coral and if only Pantone had marketed this colour differently and taken a more proactive stance, this colour could have been game changing. It would have been unique, it would have stood out and would have made an impact.

Alternatively, if they didn’t want to get in too heavy with the Coral Reef issue, they just should have chosen a completely different name and disassociated itself with Coral. Like I said, the colour in itself isn’t bad and it has potential. It is the name and reasoning behind the colour which just does not add up for me.


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