Will India adopt Pantone's Colour(s) of the Year 2021?

Gretchen Ferrao-Walker
·3-min read

American colour company Pantone recently announced Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (yellow) as its colours for the year 2021.

In 22 years, this is only the second time that two shades have been announced as Pantone's Color of the Year (COTY).

The first was 2016’s Rose Quartz and Serenity – shades of pink and blue respectively, meant to work as a blended entity; a comment on gender fluidity.

Conversely, 2021's Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, are intended to hold their own, while balancing each other's yin-yang energies. Pantone believes the combination will offer the human spirit “resilience and hope” in a time of increasing global uncertainty.

“It’s a robust way to put out two important colours, which really are light and shadow within in socio-political environment [where] there is polarity and duality,” says Mumbai-based colour consultant Latika Khosla and founder of lifestyle label Freedom Tree Designs. We’ve long gone past that era of limiting ourselves to a single colour, she adds on Pantone’s choices for the year.

Pantone announced two colours for 2021
Pantone announced two colours for 2021

Echoing the colour company’s optimistic outlook on Illuminating, Khosla describes the powdery yellow as a colour you can rally around; a beacon of hope amidst a world that pushes us to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

Ultimate Gray is said to be symbolic of solid ground, according to Pantone’s statement.

Akin to the rock that’s weathered the test of time. Khosla draws on psychology’s interpretation of grey as an area of indecision – a state of mind we can all relate to within the current landscape of uncertainty. “There will be brands, companies and individuals who will run safer with the neutral; yellow can be the bright spot (accent) to it,” she explains.

Will India embrace Pantone’s COTY 2021?

India tends to prefer yellow-toned shades across the colour wheel, observes Khosla. For instance, olive over emerald green or brick/terracotta over crimson. “Maybe it has to do with that quality of light; its association with enlightenment and creativity [that dates back to] the Indus valley and Vedic spirituality,” she explains.

Yellow, a colour that's synonymous with Indian art and design, is the perfect pop to a neutral grey backdrop
Yellow, synonymous with Indian art and design, is the perfect pop to a neutral grey backdrop. Images (clockwise from top-left): House of Ekam, Freedom Tree, Zwende, Pepperfry, Freedom Tree

A closer look reveals that yellow is intrinsic to our indigenous palette by way of minerals and colour pigments. This is reflected in local architecture like Rajasthan’s sandstone havelis; as part of our traditional diet – Ayurveda’s recommendation of turmeric as a potent spice; and at auspicious occasions like the bridal haldi ceremony or brass-toned decor during festive season.

PROTIP: The colour of the year is meant as a direction; you needn’t stick to it. This year, try playing with various shades of light and neutrality around your space — Latika Khosla

Khosla foresees the Indian design community embracing and recommending Pantone’s colours of 2021. “The powdery yellow is a fun, graphic colour that’s also pleasing to look at,” she says, adding that it’s apt at a time where our homes are required to transition from personal to professional spaces daily.

In the wider scheme of things, Khosla suspects the Indian audience will warm up Pantone’s Illuminating to an ochre or chrome, and adapt it into their homes. And we can’t wait to see how 2021’s colour story unfolds.