NEW YORK — It’s the color of underwater reefs hanging on for dear life. The sky at dusk. Some of the latest iPhones and the latest looks on the runways of Marc Jacobs and other top fashion designers. Pantone Color Institute has chosen “Living Coral’’ as its 2019 color of the year.
Can a color be convivial? Laurie Pressman, the company’s vice president, considers this saturated orange base with a golden undertone not only warm and welcoming but versatile and life-affirming. It energizes with a softer edge than, say, its pastel and neon color cousins.
‘‘With everything that’s going on today, we’re looking for those humanizing qualities because we’re seeing online life dehumanizing a lot of things,’’ Pressman said. ‘‘We’re looking toward those colors that bring nourishment and the comfort and familiarity that make us feel good. It’s not too heavy. We want to play. We want to be uplifted.’’
But do we want to run toward this color of grandmothers? Pressman also sees a retro vibe to “Living Coral,’’ in the same way a softer version of the 2018 pick, “Ultra Violet,’’ is the shade of some gray heads when hair toners bring on a turn to purple.
‘‘It’s the emotional nourishment. It’s a big hug,’’ she said of “Living Coral.’’
How important color analysis is when weighed against, well, the rest of the world is in the eye of the beholder. Pantone is a for-profit enterprise that forecasts color trends, analyzes the psychology of color, and advises companies on color for product packaging and brand identity. Its wares come with price tags, but nearly 20 years of choosing colors of the year has been a useful marketing strategy and free, free, free.
“Living Coral’’ is ascending at a time when bleaching due to climate change continues to rob actual coral reefs of their rainbows, Pressman said. It’s a color that seems to work for everybody, across the gender spectrum in apparel and across segments, from art and housewares to home interiors and industrial design.
The color also points to a long and often painful slog over the last decade or so through financial market scares and political crises to environmental chaos and the rise of social media, where saturated color presides, Pressman said.
‘‘We’re seeing so much more saturated color,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s the influence of social media because people want things to stand out. This is definitely a color you see on social media.’’
“Living Coral’’ is vivifying, but it’s ‘‘not so overpowering and in your face,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s bright enough and engaging.’’
Officially, “Living Coral’’ is Pantone 16-1546. Ever wonder what those Pantone numbers are all about? Well, they’re broken into three pairs and refer to a color’s level of lightness, hue, and ‘‘chroma,’’ on various scales. What, you ask, is “chroma?’’ It’s a description that combines hue and saturation. A set of letters after the numbers indicate the material or substance upon which the color was printed or otherwise placed, such as dyed cotton or paper.
Coming up with such color standards is one of those other things Pantone does when it’s not announcing colors of the year.
The selection process spans the year. Pantone’s experts travel the world in search of color influences that gained momentum, from the entertainment industry and traveling art collections to fashion and beauty trends, travel destinations, and specialty shows for design and decor.