Dramatic, Enigmatic & Iconic: Pantone’s Colour Of The Year For 2018


Pantone’s Colour of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet, PANTONE 18-3838, a cool purple shade that veers towards the blue end of the violet spectrum.

“People are exploring and experimenting and looking for something that’s original.” – Laurie Pressman, VP Pantone Color Institute

Oddly, as I look at the printed colour chip of 18-3838, the aspirations projected onto this bluish-purple hue don’t quite jive with what I see in front of my eyes: coming from a background in corporate branding and design, it feels like a conservative colour to me, like the type of colour you’d have chosen in the 90s for a corporate logo. On screen, it shows up as a dull mauve shade. I may not be the only one who thinks this: looking around the internet for examples of how it’s being used, I’m seeing lots of products and mood boards in variegations of mauve and purple, but not much of the actual specific colour that was chosen.


I unexpectedly fell in love with this room from Elle Decor (PHOTO: Mikkel Vang, for Elle Decor)

People seem to be embracing the spirit of the choice, if not the specific hue, hailing it as being unexpected and refreshing. Pinterest is certainly exploding with it.





Gorgeous mood board from australian blogger The Hello Bureau

The hype from the Pantone website:

Announcing PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, PANTONE® Color of the Year 2018. A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.

Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own.

Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance. Musical icons Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of Ultra Violet to the forefront of western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets.

Historically, there has been a mystical or spiritual quality attached to Ultra Violet. The color is often associated with mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world. The use of purple-toned lighting in meditation spaces and other gathering places energizes the communities that gather there and inspire connection.

Pantone has created some great tools for designers and beautiful palettes for using Ultra Violet. I rarely use violets or purples in my work, but I do love how these hues can calmly anchor blues and teals in a painting, or create a rich tapestry when combined with bright jewel tones, such as last year’s Colour of the Year, Greenery. Two of my favourite palettes from their site:


I especially love the creative tie-in with food:


“Considered exotic and enticing, purple fruits, vegetables, and starches, such as acai, purple shaded cauliflower, yams, carrots, asparagus and cabbage are also known for their natural health benefits. These new “it” foods are naturally rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and also bring vibrancy and sophistication to the table.” – pantone.com (I found these images on Pinterest and unfortunately was not able to find the original posters – if these are yours, please let me know so that I can credit you or remove them if you prefer)

Saatchi Art has partnered with Pantone to select a fabulous collection of art that embodies the spirit of Ultra Violet. A few of my favourite pieces from the collection:


Clockwise from top left: Dearly Beloved We Are Gathered Here Today To Get Through This Thing Called Life, by Angie Jones; Astro Violet, by Teis Albers; Night Sea 3, by Alexander Jowett; Spray, by Wendy Turchan

What I find most interesting about Pantone’s colour of the year is how this very influential annual trend is chosen.

The woman behind it all is Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. in addition to her position at the helm of Pantone, Eiseman holds graduate degrees in psychology and counseling and is the author of numerous books on the subject of colour in the context of consumerism and psychology. Recognized worldwide as a guru of colour trends, she’s described as one of the world’s top style makers and ranks higher than Steve Jobs amongst the world’s most important “Outsider Influencers” in the world of interior design. Definitely a woman to watch.

So how is this holy grail of hue selected?

{ Dream Job Alert }

A committee of colour experts is sent to travel the world every year, to search out trending colours in every industry and major event in which colour may be a prominent factor. The actual selection process and criteria are secret, but it boils down to looking at the “aspirations, moods and attitudes of consumers”, examining how colour is used throughout the world in art, design, fashion, decor, beauty, sports, film, and every other cultural expression of humanity that you can think of.


Ultra Violet in Taiwan and Bali (PHOTO CREDIT ??? from Pinterest)

“What we do is try to read the pulse of the public, so to speak,” Eiseman says. “What are people asking for? What are they saying their needs are? What are they hoping for? What are their aspirations? We try to then pick out a color that speaks to that cultural reaction to color, the collective consciousness’s reaction to color, and the psychological and emotional impact.”

They’re looking for something that goes beyond reporting what’s currently popular or forecasting what’s going to be big next year: their mission is to try to identify the one specific hue that expresses the current ideological zeitgeist common to the entire world. The challenge is to select a specific shade that will not only express what’s currently coming into vogue, but also has the kind of staying power to hold the public’s affections over the lifespan of the various products that might adopt a colour of the year.

I’m particularly fascinated with Eiseman’s  philosophy regarding colour:

“When 80% of human experience is filtered through the eyes, we understand that the choice of color is critical.”

This is certainly a powerful factor in influencing consumers’ buying habits, but more interesting to me is how Eiseman describes the psychological aspect of colour as being “very symbolic and represents many emotions”.


This is exactly what gives art the power to move people. In the hands of an artist, colour is a language that touches people in a deep, visceral place, unique to everyone but also universal. This to me is where the true value in Pantone’s colour of the year: much more than a consumer-oriented trend indicator for packaging or makeup, it’s a bold statement that captures the ephemeral spirit of our time.

Alright Ultra Violet, let’s see what you can do.

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