Why we love the colour of the year

With everyone from Pantone to Dulux claiming they can predict colour trends, we delve into the phenomenon of the ‘Colour of the Year’ to find out what it really means, and what it can tell us about creativity and culture

As the recent mania for millennial pink shows, colours come in waves of popularity that can, at times, be almost too much to bear. Over the course of the last three years, this particular “grapefruit shade of apricotty salmon” – as the Guardian describes it – dominated as brands, interior designers and Instagram influencers took advantage of its trending status. Millennial pink became a hook that companies could hang whatever they wanted on, and achieve instant social media success (the hashtag has been used on nearly 60k posts on Instagram). Of course it’s not the first such colour trend. If we cast our minds back to Victorian times, there was a similar mania for vivid shades such as Scheele’s Green and Paris Green – must-have colours that appeared on wallpaper, paint, and clothes, all while poisoning people with arsenic. But while a trending colour can easily take hold, its appeal might not be solely superficial.

“I feel that millennial pink was the first time that people used colour to define a shift in attitudes,” says WGSN Director of Colour and Women’s Fashion Forecast Jane Monnington Boddy. “It was one of those colours that was seen as very feminine. I used to see it very much as a colour little girls would wear, and then it became a colour that signified gender neutral design. People in the public might not necessarily know about the points behind it, but they get excited about the colour and sales of pink went up dramatically.”