Pantone LLC announced on December 4, 2019, that Color of the Year 2020 is “Classic Blue.”
Image from Stephen Baker / Huge
The most engaging and fascinating part of the release to me was the fact that PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue is the “first multi-sensory Color of the Year in the company’s history.”¹ Though Color of the Year releases may come across as niche and only accessible to refined aesthetes, I believe this year’s approach is a very big step for the Pantone Color Institute. Because they are opening color into the realms of sound, taste, smell, and texture, the color they have chosen is now accessible to those that do not have the privilege of sight, whether that be color-blindness or full loss of vision.
To accomplish this feat, Pantone sought out various “Sensory Partners” and collaborated. After reaching out through e-mail to Paola Cespedes, a Strategic Communications Associate from HUGE Inc. and Pantone’s PR representative, she described 19-4052 Classic Blue to me through both sight and the four lesser-explored senses in the context of color:
Sight, curated by Pantone: “Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.”
Sound, in partnership with Audio UX: “The sound of Classic Blue, Vivid Nostalgia, is nostalgic and takes us to a place that is comforting and familiar.”
Taste and Smell, in partnership with Firmenich: “The taste of the color is described as gentle and elegant, and explores the idea of maturing through ripening.”
Scent, in partnership with Firmenich: “The scent of the color elicits contemplation and a feeling of optimism for the future, with notes of blue water and sea salt lifted by airy sky.”
Texture, in partnership with The Inside: “The feel of the color fabric [sic] translates into a soft, velvety texture, further emphasizing the calming quality of the color, while eliciting feelings of empowerment to expand the mind and build foundation for the future.”
Below are examples of the curated sensations by Pantone that accompany 19-4052 Classic Blue.
Although I acknowledge that this reformation of color is not necessarily accessible to all, as I myself was unable to acquire a “Multi-Sensory Kit” after asking for one because I was not one of the select social media influencers or members of the media that Pantone chose to distribute to, I remain steadfast in my belief that the concept of using all senses to experience color is more inclusive to people of all abilities. For this reason, I have made the accent color of my website the Pantone Color of the Year 2020, 19-4052 Classic Blue.
For my Something New: Collaborative, I asked a group of 445 Davidson students to consider what their favorite color sounds, tastes, smells, and feels like in order to widen perspectives on what color can be. When I first envisioned this project, I wanted each participant to be shown with their favorite color, but due to the pandemic only a couple are shown below. The submissions are still thought-provoking without picture, and may establish a deeper connection with readers despite lacking the visual element.
Cranberry… the color your cheeks turn in the cold. It sounds like fireworks, tastes like a Thanksgiving feast cooked freshly by my grandmother, smells like musty old books in an unused section of a public library, and feels like a warm hug when the other person is wearing a wool sweater.Skylar McVicar ’23
An orange that’s reminiscent of autumn and fire. It sounds like fire crackling, tastes like either Thanksgiving or citrus depending on your mood, smells like fall, and feels like warmth.Molly McGowan ’23
Crayola Sun Yellow. It sounds like bubble wrap popping, tastes like fresh kiwi, smells like when it’s about to rain outside, and feels like soft leather.Georgia Morris ’23
Orange-y, mustard-y, burnt yellow. It sounds like soft R&B, tastes like lemonade, smells like an open field, and feels fuzzy like the inside of a jacket or blanket.Miguel Donado ’23
The shade in between forest green and lime green. Like Spotify! It sounds like leaves rustling on trees, tastes fresh, smells like a fresh spring breeze, and feels like a cool sunny day, but also rough and uneven.Ben Sempowski ’23
Steel blue, like most denim pants, or the sky right before a sunset turns orange. It sounds like waves calmly lapping or the almost-silence of snow fall, tastes salty, sweet, or tangy, smells like a bookstore or the wet smell after a summer rain, and feels like velvet, or paint… or rushing water.Meredith Iodice ’23
Really dark blue with a tiny bit of purple in it. Like the classic picture of galaxies you see online, blended with a rose pink, purple, black, and white-silver light. It sounds like the sea, tastes like condensed milk with a touch of rose syrup, smells like a blueberry smoothie, and feels like a piece of glass with a smooth wavy texture.Natalie Zhu ’23
Blue periwinkle with hints of lilac. It sounds like a wedding: the clinking of glasses, laughter, music, and joy. It tastes and smells like champagne, and feels like flower petals.Chloe Fisher ’23
Cyan blue. It sounds like an indie folk band with a great lead singer who writes weird songs with deep angsty lyrics, tastes like a Triscuit cracker dipped in amazing hummus that’s sprinkled with cayenne, and smells like the ocean, but not the fishy rotten seaweed smell, just warm sand and fresh air. It would feel cold like a piece of tile with checkers etched into it.Tim Kim ’23
Orchid purple. It sounds like Prince’s music, tastes like the wild blackberries I used to pick with my mom behind our house, smells like red wine, and feels like cheap velvet.Christian Peterson ’23
Smooth and artificial purple, like a cake frosting spread smoothly. It sounds like when you stick your hand into a really clean body of natural water that’s surrounded mostly by rocks, tastes fresh but slightly sweet, smells like a grape LaCroix would taste, and feels soft like fur. It walks the line between light and dark.Reid Sadusky ’23
Responses edited for length and/or clarity.
For anyone wondering, my favorite color is a warm, burnt orange. It sounds like a chip being stepped on, smells like cumin, tastes like my dad’s hummus, and has a chalky texture. 🙂
¹ “Pantone Reveals Color of the Year 2020: PANTONE® 19-4052 Classic Blue,” PANTONE®, December 5, 2019, https://www.pantone.com/color-intelligence/articles/news/pantone-reveals-color-of-the-year-2020-pantone-19-4052-classic-blue.
PANTONE. “Pantone Color of the Year 2020 – Tools for Designers.” PANTONE. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.pantone.com/color-intelligence/color-of-the-year/color-of-the-year-2020-tools-for-designers.
“Pantone Color of the Year 2020 Introduction.” PANTONE. Accessed December 11, 2019. https://www.pantone.com/color-intelligence/color-of-the-year/color-of-the-year-2020.
“PANTONE Color of the Year 2020: The Classic Blue 19-4052 Sample Pack Free Sample Pack | LANDR.” Accessed December 10, 2019. https://samples.landr.com/packs/pantone-classic-blue-sample-pack?page=1.
“Pantone Reveals Color of the Year 2020: PANTONE® 19-4052 Classic Blue,” December 5, 2019. https://www.pantone.com/color-intelligence/articles/news/pantone-reveals-color-of-the-year-2020-pantone-19-4052-classic-blue.