How classic is Classic Blue?

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    December 19, 2019

How classic is Classic Blue?


Let’s talk about blue.

The color of the sea and the sky has long been a popular choice for Pantone Color of the Year, grabbing the honor eight times since 2000 (and sharing it with Rose Quartz in 2016). That’s not surprising when you consider blue is the number one favorite color of people worldwide, or that 53% of all flags contain blue. Blue is the most commonly used color in corporate brand identities. Unlike summery coral (last year’s color), blue transcends seasons. And, when it comes to men’s fashion, there’s almost nothing as sharp as a dark blue suit. On the other hand, who doesn’t love a great pair of blue jeans? I could go on and on.

So, what’s up with Classic Blue?

In all seriousness, blue didn’t become the leader of the free color world by accident. It has more complex and contradictory meanings than any other color, which of course means it makes it into our conscious and subconscious thoughts — a lot. Emotionally and psychologically, blue symbolizes authority, calmness, comfort, confidence, dependability, dignity, honesty, reassurance, reflection, relatability, resilience, trust, understanding and wisdom. Whew.

Consider those words for a minute, though. When you think about it, they’re all things we crave in today’s world — much like in 1999, when the original Color of the Year, Cerulean, emerged as Pantone’s answer to global feelings of instability as we stood on the brink of a new millennium (they even called it the “color of the millennium”). Now, the decision makers at Pantone say Classic Blue provides a safe haven from the world’s anxiety and stress, much of it due to technology. For those of us in the home category, that’s good news if you consider a good home always provides the safest of safe havens.

“Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.” –Pantone

As for other possible underlying meanings? Well, Classic Blue happens to closely resemble the signature color of a certain political party. While you won’t see that in any of the official language from Pantone, I think the association is extremely intentional, like everything else about every Color of the Year.

How should you incorporate this Pantone Color of the Year?

First, pair it. For example, combined with pastels, Classic Blue becomes highly sophisticated yet slightly edgy. Used as the predominant color, on the other hand, Classic Blue can go really retro, really fast — perhaps confusing your forward-thinking, 2020 design with a prom dress last seen on a dance floor in 1988.

Either way, I don’t think Classic Blue shines as a solo act. Instead, use it as an accent color, or pair it with a softer color that will temper its bold, primary, I’M HERE! personality. Try it with a super light, almost blush pink or light green, or even a lighter blue for a refined, monochromatic effect.

Side note: I actually think Pantone’s Navy Blue, rather than Classic Blue, is more enduring and — I dare say — more classic. But then again, I think the Pantone folks did that on purpose. After all, compared to its bolder cousin, we wouldn’t notice if navy infiltrated the global landscape.

If you work in interior design, you have some compelling options. With more flexibility than designers dealing primarily with digital and print applications, you can do a lot of mixing and matching. Try Classic Blue with dark jewel tones, like aubergine or teal, for a refined look.

Like with previous Pantone Color of the Year selections (Tangerine Tango, anyone?), remember to be wary of overusing Classic Blue. The color’s emotional and psychological attributes should serve as a good guide. Hold those attributes up to your brand: do they support what it stands for, or what you want it to stand for?

If you said yes, you’re one giant step closer to making a color statement — be it understated or larger than life — in 2020.

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