Pantone's Colors of the Year, Ranked

Pantone's Colors of the Year, Ranked

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Image: Pantone

Pantone has announced its Color of the Year for 2021. Typically, we only get one annual champion, but the purveyor of proprietary color spaces decided that 2021 deserves two colors because 2020 was the worst.

Color of the Year is a relatively arbitrary award that has nonetheless been used in the past by designers to set trend outlooks or just use as inspiration. The honor has been granted every year since 2000, and its mission has evolved over time. In 2010, Pantone started theming the year ahead, and this edition brings us Ultimate Gray 17-5104 and Illuminating 13-0647 as “an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine-filled day.”

Pantone’s announcement reads like a horoscope for a person who’ll take a little optimism from anywhere they can get it. “The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that color can hope to answer,” Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute Laurie Pressman said in the statement.

They’re good colors that look good together. But how do they stack up against entries from the past? Follow the slideshow to see Gizmodo’s definitive ranking of Pantone’s past picks.

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22. Classic Blue 19-4052

22. Classic Blue 19-4052

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2020

The most basic and corporate blue. It’s Facebook Blue. It’s Chase Bank Blue. The worst color for the worst year.

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21. True Red 19-1664

21. True Red 19-1664

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2002

It’s red, alright.

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20. Emerald 17-5641

20. Emerald 17-5641

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2013

A color that’ll make any item look like it was crafted by an evil witch.

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18. Fuchsia Rose 17-2031

18. Fuchsia Rose 17-2031

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2001

Is it red? Pink? Purple? It’s confusing.

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19. Turquoise 15-5519

19. Turquoise 15-5519

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2010

It’s not so much ugly, as uninspired.

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17. Chili Pepper 19-1557

17. Chili Pepper 19-1557

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2007

I love chili peppers, but Pantone misses the opportunity to evoke their deep and smoky mystery.

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16. Blue Turquoise 15-5217

16. Blue Turquoise 15-5217

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2005

Pantone finally hits on something greenish that doesn’t immediately offend me.

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15. Sand Dollar 13-1106

15. Sand Dollar 13-1106

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Image: Pantone

Year:  2006

Sand Dollar 13-1106 was the toughest color of the year to rank. There’s an argument to be made that this is the classiest selection of them all, but I can’t get over how it reminds me of my grandparents’ bathroom from when I was growing up. For that, we have to dock points for being out of step with the times.

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14. Marsala 18-1438

14. Marsala 18-1438

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2015

Brown is underrated but not exactly beloved. Marsala 18-1438 walks the line between brown and red in order to cater to the needs of anyone.

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13. Honeysuckle 18-2120

13. Honeysuckle 18-2120

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2011

An energetic color that accomplishes its stated goal of “warding off the blues.”

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12. Tigerlily 17-1456

12. Tigerlily 17-1456

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2004

Our only orange-ish entry. Justice for orange!

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11. Rose Quartz 13-1520 and 15-3919 Serenity

11. Rose Quartz 13-1520 and 15-3919 Serenity

Illustration for article titled Pantone's Colors of the Year, Ranked
Image: Pantone

Year: 2016

For the first time, Pantone issued a dual selection for Color of the Year. The choice wasn’t entirely successful, and the two shades give off an Easter vibe on their own. But when we see the colors in action, they work much better.

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10. Blue Iris 18-3943

10. Blue Iris 18-3943

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2008

Deep purple. Period.

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9. Living Coral 16-1546

9. Living Coral 16-1546

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2019

A salmon that doesn’t make me want to vomit.

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8. Aqua Sky 14-4811

8. Aqua Sky 14-4811

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2003

Aqua Sky 14-4811 is probably ranked a bit high, but it gets extra points for being a form of seafoam green that doesn’t suck ass.

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7. Mimosa 14-0848

7. Mimosa 14-0848

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2009

Blazing color that’s currently getting me through a snowy NYC day.

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6. Tangerine Tango 17-1463

6. Tangerine Tango 17-1463

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2012

“True Red” may have taken the prize in 2002, but for my money, red should punch you in the face. Tangerine Tango 17-1463 is loud and demands your attention.

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5. Radiant Orchid 18-3224

5. Radiant Orchid 18-3224

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Year: 2014

Lovely. Just lovely.

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4. Greenery 15-0343

4. Greenery 15-0343

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2017

Greenery comes from the earth.

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3. Ultimate Gray 17-5104 and Illuminating 13-0647

3. Ultimate Gray 17-5104 and Illuminating 13-0647

Illustration for article titled Pantone's Colors of the Year, Ranked
Image: Pantone

Year: 2021 and 2021

Not too shabby a showing for this year’s winner and a marked improvement over the last time Pantone tried to pass off its indecision as a novelty. These colors work well together, feel modern, and I’d take either one of them on their own.

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2. Ultra Violet 18-3838

2. Ultra Violet 18-3838

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2018

Cool name. Cool color.

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1. Cerulean Blue 15-4020

1. Cerulean Blue 15-4020

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Image: Pantone

Year: 2000

It was the first color that Pantone selected as a Color of the Year, and it’s still the strongest. Cerulean Blue 15-4020 is timeless.

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DISCUSSION