Cues for Hues: 2021 Pantone Color of the Year

Cues for Hues: 2021 Pantone Color of the Year

While it’s easy to get caught up in looking at year-end reviews, we at Decibel Event Management like to look at prospective trends in content, events staging, and even color schemes for the next year.  One of our favorite annual spectaculars is Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement. In a brilliant and shrewd marketing scheme, Pantone has managed to throw a wild bash each year to name a key color from their own exclusive catalogue to define fashion, product design, interior design, UI, and graphic design for the following year.  

What did Pantone choose for its 20th color of the year announcement?  How did the experience translate as an exclusive virtual event (that we attended)?  And even more so, what are their color-industry competitors also choosing to define the aesthetic of 2021? 

Without further ado, here are the colors you should rely on for your events this year.


Every year I hope that Pantone finally enters its goth phase and chooses the blackest black as their color of the year.  After the year we had, 2021 was literally my best shot.  We ended up with, kind of the opposite.  Your TWO Pantone colors of the year are:

As people look for ways to fortify themselves with energy, clarity, and hope to overcome the continuing uncertainty, spirited and emboldening shades satisfy our quest for vitality. 

PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. 

PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. The colors of pebbles on the beach and natural elements whose weathered appearance highlights an ability to stand the test of time, Ultimate Gray quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.

2019’s Classic Blue bash was seriously unreal.  Here’s how CNN’s Kristi Goldynia broke down the exclusive live event:

In collaboration with partners across industries, Pantone created a multi-sensory Classic Blue experience, which it showcased in Manhattan on Wednesday night at its 2020 color reveal.

The fragrance of Classic Blue wafted through the air while Classic Blue sounds resounded. Classic Blue-textured cushions littered the floor and Classic Blue drinks were served. It was, beyond dispute, a Classic Blue sight to behold. But interpreting the color through the other four senses is a far less objective task.

A multi-sensory event about the color blue.  Imagine being the one guy, before the big visual reveal that was all, *sniff sniff* “does it smell like Pantone 19-4052 to anyone else in here?”

So of course, when I got a ticket to this year’s virtual Color Reveal Party, I expected the following:

  1. An unmarked Lincoln Town Car with all tinted windows to roll up into my driveway 
  2. A courier wearing a full-on N95 mask bedazzled in semi-precious stones to present me an Oculus Rift on a velvet pillow 
  3. An out-of-body experience, a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes too rich and complex to have names in any language, replicating that one experience I had at Bonnaroo as a college student many years ago

Nah, it was a powerpoint detailing all the ways you can use Illuminating Yellow and Ultimate Grey in stuff.  As it turns out you can use them pretty much anywhere: Sunglasses, powerpoint backgrounds, cabinets, powerpoint text, etc.

I’m left wanting more honestly. 


Paint supplier Sherwin-Williams took the opposite for approach for their 2021 color of the year.  SW went for something completely boring and devoid of any excitement.  Philosophically, sure, we get where they’re coming from.

Meet the Joe Biden of hues: Urbane Bronze, beige’s sassier(?) cousin.

The trend for biophilia continues to shape our spaces, proving that nature is never far away. Urbane Bronze might be a color rooted in nature, but it also has a unique ability to ground a room through organic appeal. Whether it’s accentuating window trims or accent walls, this warm hue draws from nature for a feeling of relaxation and serenity. It also works well with other biophilic elements including such as light-filled spaces and foliage.

After you reflect on it, it’s calming like a Chase Bank or Car Dealership office is calming. Meh?  I’m not sure about Urban Bronze, especially because their suggested complementary colors are other mostly forgettable neutral brownish tones, like “Messenger Bag.” Yes, Messenger Bag.

Messenger Bag.  It’s a color.  “Wow, that’s striking!” …thought no one ever.

For real, Sherwin-Williams, take a colorful stance!  Now is not the time for neutral tones!


And not to be outdone, home interior company Benjamin-Moore is throwing their own hat in the ring for a color-of-the-year as well.  Meet Aegean Teal.

Celebrate the simple pleasures—think the faded rumple of linen sheets in the morning and perfectly ripened fruits on the windowsill. The twelve hues in the palette radiate warmth and wellbeing. These are colors that make your home feel even more like home. Settle in.

It’s kind of neutral but kind of not.  It’s kinda blue but also kinda gray?  Like it could go pretty much anywhere but still seem kind of adventurous.  Seriously, it’s perfect.  Aegean Teal can pretty much take on any spin you want.  Choose this for literally anything.  I can even see this jiving well with Pantone’s Illuminating Yellow.  Why not, right?  Mix it up!

You can check out their full complementary 2021 color palette here!