Greenery is Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2017 and it will change your life
2017 is green! But not with envy. No, it’s greenery — the tangy yellow-green of plant life and nature that infuses us with the sense that all is well and nothing bad will happen.
For the past 17 years, the Pantone Color Institute has selected a “Color of the Year” — a symbolic colour that represents what they perceive as the main theme, mood or attitude for the world, based on current events, industry trends and global culture. Their choice for this year is based largely on the tumultuous nature of 2016.
“Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape,” says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. “Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”
The symbolism of the colour green is obvious. It’s a colour many associate with springtime, when the world comes back to life after frigid, white winter. Pantone’s Greenery, in particular, “speaks to our desire to express, explore, experiment and reinvent, imparting a sense of buoyancy,” said Eiseman. “Through its reassuring yet assertive vibrancy, Greenery offers us self-assurance and boldness to live life on our own terms, during a time when we are redefining what makes us successful and happy.”
Which sounds pretty. It really does. But how does Greenery accomplish this? How does it “reassure” us and “rejuvenate, revitalize and unite” us?
“We have a natural relationship with colour,” says Elaine Ryan, interior designer, colour expert, creator of the Elaine Ryan Color Bars and author of Color Your Life and Transform Your Home from Nice to Knockout — two books that focus on using colour psychology to create perfect environments. “Living with the colours we love has a profound effect upon us psychologically, in that often although we’re not aware of why we have a feeling of well-being when we enter a room.”
Ryan attributes our reactions to colour memory. “As our bodies have muscle memories, our minds revert to and remember certain colours we were wearing a time long ago in our past, or the person we were speaking to wore a hat or a tie the colour of which remains with us,” says Ryan. “Colour memories have more effect upon us than we consciously realize.”
Working as an interior designer, she has had to identify and avoid or apply specific colours to ensure the final results evoke positive memories for her clients. “After working for some years on various solutions to this dilemma, I developed a method to help my clients discover the colours they will be happiest living with now,” she states. It’s called the Supermarket Test and, according to Ryan, it always works.
“The Supermarket Test springs from my own love of food,” Ryan explains. “If I’m unhappy, a trip to the supermarket cheers me up. I find that the gorgeous colours of fruits and vegetables give me a natural lift.”
“Colours speak to me in the most elemental language — feelings — in particular, my instinctive response to colours. The Supermarket Test is based upon my belief that if we like the taste of a fruit or vegetable, we like its colour … Taste plays a major part in the subconscious reason we like a colour.”
Colour psychology sits squarely in the subconscious — cultural, ethnic, gender and age differences don’t matter; it will always affect us the same way. It has always been this way. Forty years ago, Angela Wright started exploring the way colours influence us, and she was one of the first to do so. As the daughter of hotel owners in England, she observed that when given the choice between two rooms, identical in every way except colour scheme, guests would invariably have a preference for one over the other.
“I used to say to them ‘why don’t you like this one?’ and they always said the same thing ‘oh, no, I don’t dislike it, I like it.… I just feel better in the other one,’” remarks Wright. “I decided I was going to study this. I found that a degree in psychology would have given me three years of tuition and four days of how colour is processed by the eye and the brain. I thought ‘well, I think I’m on my own here.’.”
Since then, Wright has worked with academia in the UK to teach the Colour Affects System, a theory she’s developed, to students spanning several industries, from fashion to marketing. She also owns and operates Colour Affects, a consultancy firm helping businesses incorporate colour into their brands, and wrote The Beginner’s Guide to Colour Psychology.
“When the light strikes the retina, … rods and cones … convert those wavelengths of light into electrical impulses that pass on to the brain and finally arrive at the hypothalamus,” explains Wright. “[The hypothalamus] together with the pituitary gland, governs the endocrine system and our hormones. So, all these different wavelengths are having marginally, or sometimes greatly, different effects on our hormones and our endocrine glands.”
The Colour Affects system developed by Wright explains these effects through several stages. The first is recognizing that each of the primary hues — red, blue, green, yellow — affects us in different ways.
- Red targets the body. “Red is physically stimulating,” explains Wright. “It acts on the body. Raises the pulse rate and the blood pressure. Essentially stimulating. Pink, which is a tint of red, also acts on us physically, but it soothes because it’s a soft colour.”
- Blue targets the mind. “Blue is intellectual, mental,” states Wright. “So it helps you to focus and think clearly. And the softer blues help you to concentrate — calm the mind and concentrate.”
- Yellow targets emotion. “Yellow acts on the emotions, the ego and self-confidence,” say Wright. This is one of the reasons it is seen as a happy colour and tends to lift moods.
- Green, which is our colour of the year, “creates balance between the mind, body and emotions,” explains Wright. “Which is a pretty essential colour in itself.”
The other seven basic colours — orange, purple, pink, grey, black, white and brown — fit within those four different effects. For example, purple is a blend of blue and red, which gives the sense of luxury— a physical feeling akin to being pampered — while also stimulating the mind to indulge in that extra dessert.
Applying Wright’s Colour Affects theory to get the most out of your interior design, you need to use the right hues to subconsciously direct yourself and your guests. This means using blue (or hues/tints/tones/variations of) in rooms where intellectual pursuit and mental focus is required — like the office or a study room; using yellow in rooms where you need to be pumped up, excited or confident; using red in rooms where energy, activity and other physical requirements need to be met; and green is for rooms where calm, harmony and balance reign (why does a yoga studio keep popping up in my mind?).
Green, and Pantone’s Greenery specifically, should be used and incorporated into your home every day, even in the smallest way. “When your environment contains green, this indicates the presence of healthy vegetation. So, you’re not going to starve; so, it suggests abundance,” says Wright. “I always have green or a little bit of green, somewhere in my house.”
If you’re not ready to commit to a full paint job of your home, add a plant or three; if you have a black thumb like me, a fake plant works too. Bring green to the table by adding more to your plate — a splash of colour in a dish is better emphasized when placed on a bed of lush, vibrant greens. “On the table, Greenery plates and chargers provide an appetizing backdrop for food – making dishes pop and appear fresh. Greenery is also often used in design for the hospitality and culinary industries to convey organic healthfulness,” reads the Pantone press release about its Color of the Year.
There is, of course, more to this psychology than just how one colour plays on our subconscious. We have to consider how they work together. Wright explains this in the two steps of her Colour Affects system. The first identifies the four basic personality colour groupings — warm, cool, bright and soft; the second separates these four groups into their spectrums — firelight, morninglight, dreamlight and starlight. From there, Wright is able to create a colour scheme that perfectly matches someone’s personality — the four basic colour groups correspond to the four main personality profiles developed by such savants as Hippocrates (four temperaments — sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic) and Carl Jung (cognitive functions — thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition).
“If the colours belong to your group, your reaction is likely to be ‘oh, wow, those are my kind of colours’. You sort of identify with them,” says Wright. “But if you see a colour scheme that is drawn from a different group … you’ll more likely say ‘oh, wow, those colours look great’. That’s admiration. So, either way, you’’ve got a positive response, which comes in pretty handy when you’re doing things like branding.”
“When I looked at that Pantone Greenery, I thought ‘you know, that’s spot on’,” says Wright. “This year is so full of uncertainty — with all the dramatic developments right across the world, the world has apparently gone mad — so the natural instinct is to reach for green because green restores balance. So, it is the perfect colour for this year.”
And, well, it should be, since this isn’t the first year Pantone has released a Color of the Year. It’s been promoting this nice piece of marketing for some time now. Some of the industries though may not catch on for a while — especially if there are larger items that need to be created.
“Greenery will most likely be seen in apparel this year [but] will be seen in paints, fabrics, wall coverings, flooring and accessories, such as lamp bases, sofa pillows, [in two years],” mentions Ryan. She explains that the interior design industry is about two years behind the fashion industry.
In the meantime, incorporate some greenery into your space so that you can find the balance you need to deal with the craziness that was 2016 (which seems to be spilling over into 2017). And, if all else fails, go outside and lie on the grass under a tree. You’ll always be able to find your balance there.