Friday, December 21, 2007

I'll Have A Blue...Er...New Year?

It's official. Pantone's color of the year for 2008 is Blue Iris, which is "a mix of blue and purple that suggests dependability and magic."

After last year's bold choice of Chili Pepper Red, ("Chosen for its pizazz and sophistication and its hint of ethnic taste...") and the year before last's selection of Sand Dollar ("A neutral color that expresses concern about the economy...") I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Blue Iris is such a nice calm, meditative color. Clearly the people who chose it think that we're in for a year of peaceful introspection, right?

(Of course, after that crack about the economy, one wonders if the powers that be at Pantone decided to select a blue color as a show of solidarity with Democrats in an election year. But banish the thought! If official color selectors can't be trusted to maintain their strict neutrality, who can?)

There are, of course, dissenters from Pantone's choice. Margaret Walch, director of the color association, believes that the yellow-green shade known as "bamboo" will remain prevalent. Every woman in America except for the three unfathomably slender, well-complected dishwater blonds who are actually capable of wearing "bamboo" without looking like a faded reflection in a spotty mirror of a decaying picture of their own great-grandmothers would like to have a word with Ms. Walch about her preference, of course.

Tempted as I am--and as you probably are--to laugh at the triviality of selecting an official "color" for the year, of coming up with breathless descriptions of same, of investing the whole process with a level of gravitas that, quite frankly, continues to elude this year's hapless presidential primary candidates, we can't help but realize the affect color has on our lives. Each of us responds to it at levels that are nearly primal; colors can change our moods, alter our perceptions, and even help to create their own realities for us.

To take one obvious example, think of the use of color in product packaging. As the New York Times article I linked to suggests, none of us can quite accept the imagined creation of a green can of Coca-Cola. If I asked you whether "Blue Iris" was closer to "Chips Ahoy Blue" or "Frosted Flakes Blue," you might have to check a package against the color; but chances are you can visualize both of those products as being sold in blue packages. Think of four or five products you buy on a regular basis, and I bet you know exactly what color the box or container is.

Product designers know how important the color of a product is, how much we might be influenced to buy or not to buy based on the color and design of a box or label. So the notion that there is a "color of the year" probably does matter quite a bit to people in many different industries, from fashion design to advertising to furniture manufacturing; people in these industries are paying attention--and they're going to be interested to see whether or not we are.

One of the things that makes me wish that a more "crunchy" life were possible is this reality that we are being constantly manipulated in our consumer choices, by people who spend months deciding on the new hot color, or by people analyzing our grocery receipts to determine purchasing patterns and create new algorithms that will allow them to control product placement to increase our expenditures within their stores, or by people who study the whole process of branding and seek to imprint our children at younger and younger ages with brand awareness and brand preferences that the marketers hope will remain with them for their whole lives.

And this kind of manipulation goes far beyond our consumer choices; you can see it at work in our current election season, as each Republican candidate tries to outdo the others and position himself as the real, genuine, bona fide, Christian article (accept no imitations!). I'm just wondering which of the candidates will be the first to appear on the campaign trail wearing a tie in "tomorrow's color"--Blue Iris.


Lisa said...

"Red," I think this is the most fascinating and seamless combination of interesting topics I've ever read! &:o) BTW: I look dead in anything but navy blue, and iris blue would definitely clash with my home's pine greens and cranberries. And blue is not going to be my voting color, either. Pantone can't influence this consumer!

John Thayer Jensen said...

I'm embarrassed to have to ask this, but ... what is Pantone?

Perhaps my wife will tell me.


Alexandra said...

I love blue iris!

A joyous Christmas to you and your family. :)

Divine Mercy said...

have a most blessed Christmas, from al of us at Divine Mercy blog!

freddy said...

Merry Christmas!

and, I always loved P.G. Wodehouse's sunset-color descriptions, i.e. "rare steak" and so forth.

not that that has anything to do with anything!