Every year Pantone—the self-proclaimed ‘ world-renowned authority on colour ‘—reveals their pick for Colour Of The Year. The last few years have seen a string of duds: ‘Greenery’ from 2017 was forgettable, and in a shocking departure from convention, 2016 saw two equally wishy-washy shades share the spotlight. 2015’s generously named ‘Marsala’ was the worst of all—shades of overcooked liver with hints of mud. But this year’s pick restores my faith in the top-secret, closed-door meetings from which the chosen colour emerges. Pantone’s 2018 colour of the year is a bold purple—or more accurately ‘violet’ and judging by the promotional copy that accompanies the sassy swatch, the folks at Pantone are pretty pumped about it too: “Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now.” And while I don’t ever condone invoking the ‘mysteries of cosmos’ unless something is really, really, great, I can get behind a good purple—at least for a year.
Purple is the colour of royalty, and with good reason— Tyrian Purple was the most prized dye of the ancient world and very expensive to produce, putting it out of reach for all but the wealthiest. Why so expensive? Apparently, Tyrian Purple could only be collected by ‘milking’ mucous from a certain kind of Mediterranean sea snail, and you needed twelve thousand snails to get a couple grams (about a jelly bean’s worth).
Manganese is the oldest purple pigment. Neolithic artists mixed ground manganese with animal fat to make a kind a painting stick. Cobalt violet was the first modern synthetic colour in the purple family, manufactured in 1859—Claude Monet, Paul Signac, and Georges Seurat were all fans. These days, most purple pigments are derived from the organic compound Quinacridone, a modern synthetic discovered in 1896 but not marketed until 1955—that magenta cartridge in your ink-jet printer probably contains a Quinacridone derivative.
So with their purple selection for 2018, hopefully Pantone is back on track with their colour picks. After all, who can argue with Royalty, Prince, Grimace and Tinky-Winky when it comes to colour selection. And if there’s no snail-milking involved, even better!