Imagine a scenario in which circumstances outside your control confine you to a single room for an indefinite period of time — and you have basically nothing to do but stare at the walls. Available activities are strictly limited; you aren’t allowed company; you can’t really go outside; time collapses in on itself; and your sense of reality starts fraying at the edges. Does this sound like the plot of 2020 to you? Or does it sound like the plot of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story about a woman pushed slowly into madness by the isolation of a “rest cure” mandated by her husband?
Hm, well, why not both?! That seems to have been Pantone’s reasoning in selecting the newest “Color of the Year.” Usually, the Pantone Color Institute selects a single shade to put the past 12 months in review — a basic soothing blue; a sexy Prince-y violet — but given the current mood, 2021 gets two: Ultimate Gray, a swatch that recalls solid shadows cast on a wall; and a lemony shade Pantone calls Illuminating, allegedly reminiscent of a happy face. I will call it Hysterical Yellow.
“No one color could get across the meaning of the moment,” Pantone Color Institute vice-president Laurie Pressman told the New York Times. This pairing is reportedly meant to symbolize “the light at the end of the tunnel,” a need for togetherness, and “emotional support and hope,” Pressman said. Based on Pantone’s chosen visual metaphor, however, I am sticking to my own interpretation:
Don’t see the parallel? Hm, well, just keep looking at it. I’m sure something will jump out at you eventually.