Color Me Social
The vivid colors of social media are taking over the design world.
We recently checked in with the experts at the Pantone Color Institute to find out which colors are trending this summer. We learned that social media is helping to shape the current color palette, and then we dug a little deeper into what it all means for designers and brands.
Laurie Pressman, the Institute’s vice president, shared a collection of bright, saturated colors her team is tracking in designs around the world: lime green, Hawaiian ocean, flame orange, fuchsia purple, cherry tomato, blazing yellow, and dazzling blue.
“Following years of essentialist and pared-down aesthetics, the thirst for vivid, rich color is taking center stage as people want to spark a new kind of joy and create playful paradises,” she explains.
The driver behind these colors is social media, where people gravitate toward experimental color and intense experiences, says Laurie. And it makes sense — in the visually noisy social world, bright, bold images have the power to grab our attention. On social, color has become a form of self-expression, and as these vibrant hues trend, more people join in. “It’s circular,” Laurie says.
While the trend toward intense, saturated color has its roots in social media, it’s spreading everywhere from retail to runways and stock libraries, which is an interesting inversion. Just a few years ago, Laurie says, fashion tended to shape color trends and everything else followed. Now social media and other areas of design are contributing to and reinforcing trends: “While all of the shades highlighted are being seen on the street and the catwalk,” says Laurie, “we are seeing these colors show up in other areas as well, from travel to food. Some of the newest sources for color inspiration are home furnishings, lifestyle, and beauty.”
Tapping into the brilliant shades of social media
The current social-media-inspired color moment is shaping how museums win over consumers, especially as they cater to the ever-present urge to selfie. Take, for example, the Museum of Ice Cream. With its ultra-bright colors, selfie-worthy sprinkle pool, and giant ice cream cones, the museum is made for the current color moment.
Likewise, the Color Factory is dedicated to immersive color exhibits. Its latest project, the Manhattan Color Walk (#ManhattanColorWalk), celebrates 265 vibrant hues collected by the group’s creative team as they walked through New York City. The brightly colored installation (they call it a “new kind of map”) transforms walkways in the garden at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum into the perfect spot for a color-saturated selfie.
There’s even a Museum of Selfies, which traces the roots of the selfie concept and offers patrons the opportunity to capture their own images with colorful works of art.
Jia Jia Fei, the director of digital for the Jewish Museum, articulates the thinking behind these exhibits: “In the pre-digital photography era the message was, ‘This is what I’m seeing.’ Today the message is, ‘I was there — I came, I saw, and I selfied.'”
Brands are getting in on the game, too, creating color-rich backdrops inside their retail spaces and outdoor displays. Paul Smith has its famous cotton-candy pink wall in Los Angeles. Nike teamed up with French fashion brand Pigalle and ill-studio to drench a basketball court in surreal, iridescent gradients. And Gucci, using a slightly more subdued palette, has launched stunning building-side murals that are ideal for the fashionista selfie.
Vivid colors: The takeaway for designers and brands
Designers and brands know that color is a powerful tool for communicating with consumers, creating both conscious and unconscious perceptions. So to meet customers where they are right now, Laurie recommends embracing the saturated colors and joyful, optimistic mood of the current color palette. If bright colors don’t make sense for your brand, she suggests that “even a small accent or a bright shade in the background could do the trick.”
This increase in the use of vibrant colors and the trend’s growth out of social media is a fascinating development. Adobe Stock is excited to help creatives understand how color influences are changing, and how to make the most of these popular colors to really get consumers’ attention. Partnering with Pantone on color is part of our larger mission to consistently communicate where interest is growing in the visual world, and help brands and the creative community stay ahead of the curve.
The institute expects the current color trend to continue through the summer of 2020.