This article is part of our latest special Design file, on the new creative paths shaped by the pandemic.


The events of the past two years have led most of us to spend a lot more time online. So it makes sense that the Pantone Color Institute’s choice for its 2022 color of the year — an intense purple called Very Peri — was inspired in part by the metaverse.

“It’s not a prediction. It’s really what’s happening,” said Laurie Pressman, vice president of Pantone, which markets a color-matching system that allows, for example, a designer in Italy discussing with a customer in Argentina to talk about the exact same shade of yellow. Each December, the company picks out what it thinks will be next year’s dominant hue, based on changing fashions, interiors and new technologies.And the latest technology, Ms. Pressman said by phone, has big implications for the future of color that go beyond mere trends.

Video games, for example, have a noticeable effect on color, she said, with people entering a virtual space more frequently, “creating avatars and wanting to dress that way, or creating collections eventually from a palette that couldn’t necessarily be replicated in the real world. (There’s a limit to the pigments that can be safely produced without toxins and consistently reproduced in the physical realm, she said. Not so online, where the options are endless.)

Fittingly, Very Peri is the first Pantone color of the year that was not pulled from an existing catalog of thousands of hues, but rather developed from scratch.

The new color encourages looking at the world “through different eyes” and inspiring “unexpected solutions in what we call bold minds,” Pantone executive director Leatrice Eiseman said in a phone interview.

To demonstrate the potential of digital color, Pantone collaborated with Paris-based multidisciplinary artist Polygon1993 to offer nine Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, of Very Peri-inspired digital artworks. Microsoft has adopted the tint for laptop, phone and tablet screens and its Teams backgrounds.

“Could there be a digital-only palette?” Ms. Pressman asked. “I don’t know; we are exploring a role.

While some companies are already using Very Peri on furniture and appliances, the periwinkle tone has a polarizing effect on interior designers and other style watchers.

Ghislaine Viñas, a New York-based interior designer known for her bold use of color, pointed to the elements of red in the hue as strong and blue as positive. “It’s that gender neutral color we all need right now,” she said over email.

In Paris, designer India Mahdavi, also known for being adventurous with color, described Very Peri in an email as “the ultimate celestial color, the color of the sky between dusk and dawn”. She suggested using it on a ceiling or a velvet sofa – “a sofa you could sink into, the same way you sink into your sleep.”

But New York-based interior designer Brock Forsblom warned over the phone that too much color could give off an “alternate universe ‘My Little Pony’ vibe or a “Princess Jasmine for a hot night” attitude. And Georgia Wilkinson, studio coordinator at Creed Design Associates in Leicester, England, criticized the color’s “rash and cartoonish quality”. His emailed verdict: “I certainly couldn’t live with this painted on my wall – and I wouldn’t dream of subjecting a client to it.”

Paris-based trend forecaster Li Edelkoort said via email that “Very Peri seemed like a perilous color at a time that required warm palettes for the home, which included terracotta, brown and beige.” Ms Edelkoort, a Dutch-born design educator and activist who founded the consultancy Trend Union in 1986, scorned what she saw as Pantone’s “pushing a shade of purplish blue down people’s throats without nothing to do with the way we live and evolve”. Humans want to be embraced by their environment in troubled times, which does not allow for an invented, uncold blue tint.

Responding to Ms Edelkoort’s comments, Ms Eiseman said Pantone’s intention was not to force appreciation of a hue, but to “highlight the relationship between color trends and what we see it happening in all areas of global design”.

No color can be universally appealing, she said, and she advised those wary of Very Peri to consider making it an exclamation mark on a single wall or piece of furniture. She does, however, have a bedroom painted entirely in shade, she says, including the ceiling.

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