Millennial Pink Is Dead. Long Live Pantone's 2019 Color of the Year: Living Coral

pantone living coral
Living Coral | Courtesy of Pantone
Living Coral | Courtesy of Pantone

If I were to ascribe a color to 2018, it would be the sort of rubbery gray hue that tends to color one's face right before vomiting: equal parts spackled sidewalk slate, split pea soup, and well whiskey laced with dehydrated urine and formaldehyde. 

But for reasons unknown to me, The Pantone Color Institute, America's premiere collective of color experts and trend forecasters, declared Ultra Violet -- a warm, loud purple, likely found in Jimi Hendrix's wardrobe -- 2018's official color of the year. As a pseudo-ginger, this felt like a personal affront (not my color). But alas, this is not about me. And more importantly, the garbage fire that was 2018 is reaching its final hour, which brings us to Pantone's formal color selection for 2019: Living Coral. 

The shade -- a fleshy pink, named for the ocean's more vibrant coral reefs -- is meant to affirm a sense of life. In an era marked by our near-apocolyptic sense of doom, the color is a balm. It soothes.

"In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy," Pantone declares on their website. "Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression."

living coral
Courtesy of Pantone

The color gurus at Pantone have been selecting a singular shade to pair with the year at hand for over two decades. They're like the sommeliers of pigments. And in the aftermath of their annual declaration, designers across fashion, home goods, architecture, and media tend to tint themselves, slowly but surely, towards Pantone's recommendations.

The selection process involves a heavy vet of the art world, of global architecture and clothing design, of film production and trending music. It's essentially an audit of the natural and cultural influences at play in the world at large. But it's not a reflection, it's a response -- an answer. Living Coral was chosen as an antidote to the deeply technology-oriented, somewhat paranoid culture in which we all take up residence.

"Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media," Pantone explains. "[It] embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment."

Courtesy of Pantone

According to Laurie Pressman, vice president of the color institute, the hue has a distinctly retro feel. It took root in the '50s and '60s, cropping up in fashion lines, car details, and restaurant decor. It was central in the advertising world, which is why it's fairly easy to picture a peachy lining on the couch in Don Draper's office. Beyond that, it's reminiscent of the good 'ol days -- a hark back to simpler times. In short, if Americana were a fleshy shade of pink, it would be Living Coral: A nice, vintage digression from the harsh primaries of the flag. 

"That’s comforting!” Pressman told Fast Company in an interview. “Because the more things try to push us forward, the more people reach back to what was, because they’re looking for terra firma. It’s scary! So you want things that make you feel safe, happy, that bring you comfort and warmth.”

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the color holds a particular, timely significance. It appears super-saturated on phone and computer screens -- but by the same token, it actually exists in nature. It's that magical middle ground between our digital world, and our real one.

And it's not millennial pink. 

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Eliza Dumais is a news writer at Thrillist who looks bad in Ultra Violet. Follow her on Twitter for proof.