Twenty years ago, the Pantone Color Institute began a tradition that’s become ubiquitous across the paint industry: The Color of the Year. Equal parts trend forecasting and marketing craze, the Color of the Year program elevates a single color to demigod status. The company’s first selection, in 1999, was Cerulean. “Lifestyle movements suggest that consumers will be seeking inner peace and spiritual fulfillment in the new millennium,” the company announced.
Over the past two decades, many other color and paint companies have followed Pantone’s lead, naming a Color of the Year they feel encapsulates not only where the world is, but where it’s going. “We view the Pantone Color of the Year as an educational program that is intended to highlight the relationship between what is taking place in our global culture and how it manifests itself in color,” says Laurie Pressman, VP of the Pantone Color Institute.”With color and context so intertwined, there really are reasons why a color family or individual color comes into prominence when it does, and for the most part the popularity of a color is symbolic of the age we are living in.”
Announcing a color of the year also helps these brands speak directly to consumers, whether they’re people buying paint at Home Depot or designers looking for trend forecasting as they develop new products. The latter is more important than you might imagine, in the $24 billion paint market. In a New York Times piece on color’s significance in culture, Bruce Falconer offers a glimpse at the influence of Pantone’s research. “Color forecasters like Shah and his team at Pantone have tremendous influence over the visible elements of the global economy—the parts of it that are designed, manufactured, and purchased—though their profession itself is all but invisible,” he writes.
Most companies begin researching a couple years in advance, visiting trade shows to see what’s happening in retail and…
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