Each year Pantone reveals its Color of the Year, a prediction of which color it thinks will be particularly significant in the months to come. Last year it was Tangerine Tango, which I don’t recall being particularly pervasive, while this year it’s Emerald. So how does this oracular pronouncement come to be?

In the words of the firm, ‘Pantone quite literally combs the world looking for color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films that are in production, traveling art collections, hot new artists, popular travel destinations and other socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from technology, availability of new textures and effects that impact color, and even upcoming sports events that capture worldwide attention.’ Note that tracking social media imagery is conspicuously absent.

Quite different, then, is the approach recently taken by paint firm Jotun, which began in the 1920s by supplying paint to the Norwegian whaling fleets. While still supplying marine coatings, the firm is now more widely known as a global provider of general-purpose decorative paints. From that perspective, Jotun recently launched an initiative that doesn’t try to guess what color might be popular in the next twelve months, which when you think about it can only be rather arbitrary. Instead, the firm tapped into Pinterest to analyze the popularity of colors in users posting images to kitchens, children’s rooms, living rooms and bedrooms. Thus, placing an emphasis on what actual people are doing right now.

I think we’ll be seeing more social media image analysis to try to figure out the shifting tastes of consumers. It would be great to see an extension of this in the form of publicly-available tools, rather than have them be restricted only to large corporate interests.

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