Every year around this time I wait. It’s not about the holidays, it’s not about the new year, it’s not about the snow – oh lawdy it’s not about the snow. It’s because I’m anticipating a particular announcement. One that sets a certain tone for the coming year. The release of Pantone’s Colour of the Year.
Some people contemplate a New Year’s resolution, some commit to a statement. I, on the other hand, look for a theme and the annual announcement of Pantone’s Colour of the Year.
The colour we’ve been waiting for with baited breath? The colour announcement that’s had us clutching our pearls is none other than….“Classic Blue!”
Wait. Excuse me? After experiencing some seriously vibrant and wild hues over the past few years like Greenery (2017), Ultra Violet (2018), Living Coral (2019), on the cusp of a new era, Pantone’s going to give us thrill-a-minute Classic Blue?
Whilst the announcement of as 2020’s favoured colour may have resulted in a gaggle of trombones *waah waaah waaaaaaahing* from hue-heads around the world (it’s a gaggle of trombones, right? Or is it a pride?), it seems to me that the herd of horns heard around the world, might have been a bit premature. Because, when you think about it, Classic Blue is truly a perfect hue to usher in this particular new decade. And, when it comes to pairing colour with mood, Pantone and their lead Colourist, the esteemed Leatrice Eiseman, are nearly always on point.
Landing on the right hue to convey a mood, zeitgeist, or characteristic can be as challenging as trying to find just the right word to express one’s self in the most accurate way possible. There’s nuance to both colour and words that affect how we perceive their message. And, that’s the whole point. For many, the differences in hues can be subtle but it’s this subtlety that makes the right choice so powerful – and makes the wrong choice fall flat.
Let’s go back to the mid-aughts when, in 2006, a little flick called The Devil Wears Prada hit the big screen, and an iconic speech made by Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly focused our collective attention on another shade of blue:
Miranda Priestly: Something funny?
Andy Sachs: No, no, nothing. Y’know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. Y’know, I’m still learning about all this stuff.
Miranda Priestly: This… ‘stuff’? Oh… okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you.
You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean.
You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic “casual corner” where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of “stuff.”
This time? It’s not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s definitely not cerulean. It is, very clearly, classic blue.
OY. So, I know what you might be thinking. I can almost hear the voice in your head, a Fred-Armisen-as-Joy-Behar “So what? Who cares?”
But Classic Blue offers a good number of characteristics that other shades and tones don’t.
Residing somewhere between dark Navy and Royal Blue, Classic Blue avoids the feelings of sombreness or imposing nature of the aforementioned Navy, as well as the intensity and brightness of Royal Blue. Rather, it shares in the qualities of both of those colours and has a bit more excitement to it because of its unique red undertone.
Take a peek:
WOW. A blue by any other name…has a totally different feeling and meaning to it, doesn’t it?
As we enter a brand new decade filled with promise, hope, combined with some trepidation and perhaps a touch of anxiety, Classic Blue provides the perfect complement. It’s calm, confident, enduring, and signifies stability and connection.
It’s easy to see the difference when you look at all three of those shades of blue, the psychology of colour is so deep that subconsciously, almost all of us would hue like Classic Blue whether it’s on a package for a product or in an outfit with all of these qualities without thinking twice.
Now imagine the impression these colours could make if you were to choose them for your brand – to choose it on your website, your logo, or to wear as a speaking outfit or for an important meeting. A variation of each of these blues will carry its own meaning, especially when layered onto your own colouring. Choosing the most effective tone would be as advantageous as choosing a lesser tone would be detrimental to your message.
See, understanding the language of colour, how vibrance, depth, and undertone, impact the perception of a brand – whether it’s a package or a person – is as powerful a tool as a rich vocabulary, often expressing the ideal feeling or sensation, without having to say a word. That’s why having the right choice on the tip of your tongue and in your closet is such a powerful tool.
Hear Leatrice Eiseman talk about Classic Blue here on one of my favourite podcasts.
Connect with me to learn more about how to use colour strategically for your brand.