Every December the color categorizing company Pantone nominates one of its colors as a hue for the next 12 months. The act is intended to create positivity around messages such as the environment, gender equality, and current affairs. But the color for 2019 has raised hackles in some quarters.
2019’s official color is named Living Coral, and it’s a nice idealized shade of red coral under blue water.
The controversy, according to Jack and Huei—a Melbourne-based design agency—is that Pantone’s choice glosses over the devastation being inflicted on coral by climate change. The agency, run by Jack Railton-Woodcock and Huei Yin Wong, is particularly concerned with the loss of coral around their native Australia, not least the decline of the Great Barrier Reef. The duo describe Pantone’s choice as “tone-deaf, and downright irresponsible”.
Not satisfied with simply boycotting Pantone’s choice for 2019, the pair set about subverting the decision with their proposed color for next year:
It’s the responsibility of all of us, creative or otherwise, to find creative solutions to big problems, and right now there aren’t many problems facing humanity that are bigger than climate change.
Jack and Huei searched through their Pantone swatches to uncover #F0F6F7, a very pale blue that matches the color of the skeletal stems of coral that are revealed as coral is killed off in a process known as bleaching. Then they dubbed the hue Bleached Coral, and hijacked Pantone’s branding to propose the color for next year’s selection:
This is an issue we care about deeply and we think the creative industry has an opportunity to bring this global issue from the depths of the ocean to the surface of our screens.
Pantone’s announcement at the end of 2018, was seen by many as a blinkered decision. Jack and Huei’s guerrilla design protest is part of a wider trend of designers using their craft to tackle serious social issues. It’s unlikely that Pantone will embrace this suggestion, but the trend for an ethical, politicized design world is set to continue long into 2020.