Why the trend colour for 2021 is not just Yellow.
Updated: Mar 20
The world of colour has always held me captive. Interestingly enough, I tend to live in all white interiors with pops of colour added in and taken out at whim. I guess it is because in my work as a Trend Forecaster and Creative Director, building and creating scenarios for fashion and interior photo shoots, I tend to change my mind as to what I love at any given moment. Navy blue walls with bleached blonde wood, coral and pink vintage sun-bleached Moroccan rugs edged with tangerine, daffodil yellow sunrooms with burnished oak farmhouse furniture, vivid, succulent green kaftans embroidered with silver/gold thread teamed with turquoise suede slippers... you get the idea.
The one consistent thing, colour can change our world and our emotions. It can incite passion and the deepest desire, it can calm us down in moments of anxiety, soothe frayed nerves or take us back to a nostalgic past.
That is why understanding and implementing the colours that will come next is big business for so many companies.
The Pantone Colour of the Year is a fabulous example of this. Companies the world over, from the automobile industry through to fashion, packaging and even food, wait with baited breath for Pantone’s delivery every December. It is so recognized and implemented within so many industries, that it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it is big business.
I read in a report recently a bold all-encompassing statement: We cannot predict the future.
As a forecaster of many years standing with some heavy-hitting, on target analysis resulting in bang-on-the-money consultations and future forecasts, I have another thought process. We may not be able to give a blow-by-blow description of the future - but we certainly can map and detect what people will be looking at, why, and give a pretty solid idea of when. I know, I have done it many times over with amazing results.
This is possibly even more true when forecasting colours to which, like it or not, we have an extreme emotional attachment.
After the “whitewashing of facts and misinformation” wrought about by social media and made ever more apparent with Covid 19. The muddy hues that previously dominated with their down-to-earth associations will be eradicated with a new consumer bid to see-through the ummmm… crap.
It stands to reason that we will look to more cleaner colours then, brighter, more transparent. White on! That was intended in case you were wondering. But that is just the thing, we’ve seen a lot of white in the not-so-distant past. Pre-Covid minimal spaces were a big trend format, but we were already segueway-ing out of them. Don’t get me wrong, white will still maintain a huge following – disinfectant, sterility, cleanliness will remain major concerns, but white - which is actually a non-colour like black - has had its day in the sun.
So, what or which range of colours is going to be a hit in 2021 and going forward?
Actually, let me ask you – without hesitation, answer this question: What colour do you think of to represent Joy or Happiness?
I bet 7/10 said Yellow or Pink (culturally, in the West I should probably add). Correct?
Now, what colour represents sadness or despair?
Most of you answered Grey or Black, no?
See, the first step towards understanding colour psychology.
Actually, Pantone’s Colour of the Year for 2021 was a dual forecast - half grey/half yellow. Pantone called it Ultimate Gray and Illuminating – I call it incredibly disappointing.
To be fair, Pantone did have a much more intense breakdown re their colour choice with myriad reasons behind, and quite honestly Pantone’s Colour of the Year is generally not that well… let’s be polite… obvious.
But, if you think that is all there is to colour forecasting - think again. While intuition or gut-reaction plays a part in most forecasts, colour already informs our emotions so intuitively we are predisposed or programmed to associate with certain colours (depending on the culture of course). However, our role as colour forecasters exists because there is a lot more to it. A whole lot more. And I am not trying to make this up to say; hey not everybody can do it, but hey, honestly - not everybody can do it.
If I read another piece from colour experts about Yellow as the colour for 2021 due to its happy connotations, well let’s just say – I won’t be happy.
It’s not that there is not a truth in it - we will be looking to be uplifted in 2021, and yellow will make a strong appearance, what is missing from these forecasts, is the road less travelled. You don’t look out of your window and see rain clouds brimming with condensation, and need a weather forecaster to tell you it’s going to rain.
Forecasters are meant to be able to see the signs no-one else can, or that very few are able to. So, while it’s a safe bet to say yellow, what you would, or should be engaging a Trend or Colour Forecaster for, is to tell you what most people don’t know.
To tell you what is not yet written on the page, so you can get a leg-up, and your business can stand out from the crowd.
So, here’s another exercise.
Think about where are we at the moment. In a happy place, or are we striving to get there? Or are we still in the midst of a deep depression? A melding of all three perhaps? Are we going to want to be uplifted, or are we still too deep in the mire to see anything but darkness? Are we looking at life through rose-coloured glasses now, or do we just want to believe in rainbows? What do we need right now? What will we need in the future? What colour signifies it is going to be all right, do we need something solid and dependable?
See, there is a bit more to it right? And that is only the start - we have only touched on colour psychology, not consumer insights, not politics, not demographics, not socio-economics, not even data.
So, here's a tip - the future of colour is going to be much like us - all over the place.
But if you are asking me to put my money where my mouth - to offer up one colour - then my bet is on mulberry, with a decidedly cleaner, more bluer base than its usual format, tipping it more into the realm of the purple than the brown.
Why? Well, that’s a long research story, for another time.
But for the moment - just trust me.