Pantone’s colour of the year is Ultra Violet.
As humans are the only species not to be able to tell the difference between violet and purple, even Pantone calls Ultra Violet a “blue-based purple”.
When giving a background to the choice of Ultra Violet, they use examples of world famous incidents of purple from recent history. So let’s see why this colour should be celebrated.
25,000 years ago, a caveman, let’s call him Jim, lived around the Pech Merle area in France. He pulverized some manganese and mixed it with water or animal fat. Yeah, we have no idea why, either. Anyhow, he used the mixture he got to fingerpaint the walls of his seven-room mansion/cave, drawing woolly mammoths and spotted horses in violet. The paintings are still there – talk about good paints.
In the middle ages, purple and violet became the go-to colour of the royalty and church in Europe. In the 18th century, the wealthy started wearing purple to distinguish themselves from the poor. Thankfully, the advance of technology brought the colour back to everyone. In 1990, Crayola added the Royal Purple to their list of colours.
50 years ago, Jimi Hendrix released the song Purple Haze. The basic idea came from a book published a year earlier, talking about wars on the planet Neptune, where the sunspots would turn the sky purple. The book itself was based on a short story from 1957, so you could say the colour purple has been in pop culture for 60 years.
In 1972, the band America first used the term “Purple Rain” in their song “Ventura Highway”. 12 years later, Prince released a song, an album and a film by the same name. He claimed the phrase Purple Rain and its meaning was such a deep inspiration to him. Incidentally, when asked about the phrase and its meaning,
Gerry Beckley of America said “You got me.”
The words Violet and Purple mostly bring to mind an image of either Jimi Hendrix, or Prince. As mentioned before, the human eye cannot actually distinguish the two colours, even though countless handbooks and websites try and try again to tell the difference.
To make matters even more complicated, earlier this year, Pantone dedicated a colour to the memory of Price. Called Love symbol #2, it looks… well, much like Ultra Violet. Except it’s described as a “naturally purple hue”. Go figure.
So there you have it. A colour the human eye cannot distinguish, explained via another set of colours from the same hue range. Thankfully, they have also explained the colour in numbers, at least giving us half a chance of getting the tone right:
Plus Series CMYK: 76, 75, 0, 0
Plus Series RGB: 101, 78, 163
Previous releases of Pantone’s Colour of the Year series
2021 – Pantone Colour of the Year – Ultimate Gray + Illuminating
2020 – Pantone Colour of the Year – Classic Blue
2019 – Pantone Colour of the Year – Living Coral
2017 – Pantone Colour of the Year – Greenery
2016 – Pantone Colour of the Year – Rose Quartz & Serenity
2015 – Pantone Colour of the Year 2015 – Marsala
2014 – PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid
2013 – PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald
2012 – PANTONE 17-1463 Tangerine Tango
2011 – PANTONE 18-2120 Honeysuckle
2010 – PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise
2009 – PANTONE 14-0848 Mimosa
2008 – PANTONE 18-3943 Blue Iris
2007 – PANTONE 19-1557 Chili Pepper
2006 – PANTONE 13-1106 Sand Dollar
2005 – PANTONE 15-5217 Blue Turquoise
2004 – PANTONE 17-1456 Tigerlily
2003 – PANTONE 14-4811 Aqua Sky
2002 – PANTONE 19-1664 True Red
2001 – PANTONE 17-2031 Fuchsia Rose
2000 – PANTONE 15-4020 Cerulean