Purple Reign

After a heap of chaos and disruption in 2017, the Pantone Color Institute thinks whatever we need in 2018 will come in the deep purple hue of “Ultra Violet,” its color of the year. Specifically, “PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet” is the chosen hue. (“Ultra Violet” with a space, note: “ultraviolet” light is, by definition, invisible.)


The color wasn’t chosen because it’s regal, though it does resemble a majestic shade. “It was chosen to evoke a counterculture flair, a grab for originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking,” noted Pantone Vice President Laurie Pressman. “We are living in complex times,” she said. “We’re seeing the fear of going forward and how people are reacting to that fear.”

Although Pressman wasn’t keen on talking politics, she did go on to say that the color is playing out in home design, industrial spaces, products, fashion, art, and food, and reflects the idea of living not inside or outside the box, but with no box at all. Pressman called the color “complex.” That marriage, between the passionate red violets and the strong indigo purples make Ultra Violet “the most complex of all colors,” she said, “because it takes two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed—blue and red—and brings them together to create something new.”

For centuries, purple has been associated with royalty, because of the extraordinary expense of dying fabric purple. In our current political climate, where red is linked with Republicans and blue with Democrats, purple is periodically identified as a symbol of bipartisanship—or, in the case of swing states, as a signifier of uncertain affiliation.

“There’s enough blue there, that while it’s provocative and stands out, there’s still a stability and a versatility to this shade that it can go with so many other colors. People are exploring, experimenting, and looking for something that’s original,” said Pressman. Whatever you think of that assessment, get ready for a deluge of purple items from home décor to fashion and beyond—either developed just for this Pantone announcement or will now be marketed as such.

Last year’s color of the year was a “life-affirming” shade of green. The year before was a pairing of rose quartz and serene blue that was seen as anti-stress while also nodding toward gender fluidity. Pantone said.

purple room.jpg

So what does purple have to say about our planet in 2018? Ultra Violet can be many things to many people. It “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, said by way of explanation. It is found in the cosmos (think of all those swirling purple nebulae!), the wellness movement (amethyst crystals!), and was the favorite color of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who, Ms. Eiseman said, used to wear a purple cape when he was trying to be creative. Ditto Wagner, who liked to surround himself with purple when he was composing. Also, of course, Prince.

The purple choice also speaks to rebellion, finding new ways to interpret our lives and surroundings, Pressman said. It also speaks to the pleasing calm of Provence and its purple flower fields.

Call it purple or violet, this eye-catching hue definitely makes a statement.