Bold probably isn’t a word you’d associate with pastel peach, but it’s certainly appropriate for the decision to launch what can only be described as the pinnacle of soft and fluffy colours into a world that’s, well… not exactly a cuddly place right now. And that’s entirely the point, presumably.
The colour in question is, of course, the 2024 Pantone Color of the Year: Peach Fuzz (also known as PANTONE 13-1023, for the aficionados among us). A far cry from last year’s ‘magentaverse’, the immediate reaction on social media was predictably one of surprise, but also confusion. The environmentalists lamented the lack of green, others were disappointed that Pantone didn’t take a perceived golden opportunity to make a big colour statement. But above all, the question on everyone’s lips was: “what on earth do we do with peach?”
And well they might ask.
It’s long acknowledged to be a tricky colour to work with. Which might go some way to explaining why, this year, Pantone has made even more of a determined effort to offer examples of its use across a range of scenarios. Interiors and fashion dominate, as you might naturally expect, given Pantone’s description of Peach Fuzz as “a velvety gentle peach whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body and soul.” But given that this annual announcement has important colour repercussions across a number of industries, what can peach convey, beyond the gentle and peaceful?
Those wanting to be colour forward and introduce peach into their world in a bolder, less ethereal way can do so perhaps by taking a leaf or two out of the books of the world’s greatest artists. Neither Henri Matisse nor Mark Rothko, for example, are known as romantics, and their work rarely fails to make an impression – be it positive or negative. Yet they both introduced peach to their palettes during turbulent times.
On this basis, they’re great examples of how it’s possible to bring drama into a classically ‘nice’ colour like peach. So, let’s cast aside our confusion (and colour wheels!) for a second, and in the spirit of creating a fun new acronym for creatives in 2024, ask ourselves WWMD: “What Would Mark/Matisse do?”
Mark: Throw away the rule book
“Art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take risks,” said Rothko. When it came to colour, he certainly wasn’t one to adhere to protocol. Instead, he ‘felt’ his way, layering his colours one over another in a way that created an interesting complexity, but that also meant that no two parts of the canvas are the same. This layering also creates a fascinating and very effective ‘flare’ effect, which lets some pure colour – like peach – peep through, making a statement without dominating the canvas.
Matisse: Find an equilibrium
Commentators noted that Peach Fuzz might feel a little nauseating if there’s nothing else in the space to break up the sea of fluffy feels. "What I dream of is an art of balance," said Matisse in his 1908 essay Notes d'un peintre (Notes of a painter). And while he was, in fact, writing of his need for purity and serenity (which Peach Fuzz communicates in abundance), balance in all things is good advice, nonetheless. Bringing complementary colours and strategic design elements into your work can offer stability, and the Pantone Institute clearly agrees. They offer a curated selection of colour palettes to complement any problematic peach.
The colour is one whose warm and welcoming embrace conveys a message of compassion and whose cosy sensibility brings people together and enriches the soul."
Mark: Or don’t, if you prefer
“I am not interested in the relationship of colour or form or anything else,” challenges Rothko. So, ditch the balance, dial up the contrast and channel the unexpected. Serenity with subculture, purity with punk. Push your peach to the limits by playing with norms and introducing it into styles and genres that might feel a little… weird. Think about colour associations and default judgements – school uniforms are grey, scrubs are blue, lab coats are white, as a start – and use this to try and break your own colour psychology, just as Rothko did.
Matisse: Precision is not perfection
Peach is a broad church. And while you take a moment to read and reread what is possibly one of the most surreal statements of the year so far, let us explain. Simply because Peach Fuzz is Pantone Color of the Year, it does not preclude you from playing with other, less poetic versions of the colour. A little tweak here and there might not take you out of the peachy ballpark entirely, but it could certainly be the difference between yoga zen and retro vibes. “Exactitude is not truth,” said Matisse.
Ultimately, Pantone Color of the Year is about putting Peach Fuzz into the hands of people. Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute, knows this better than anyone. “The goal of the programme is to help companies and consumers better understand the power colour can have,” she explained on the day of the 2024 launch. “Whether it be to create a more successful design strategy that will increase consumer engagement, or to better showcase your own personal identity.” So, of course, Peach Fuzz doesn’t only rely on the power of the colour, but that of those who use it. So, the challenge is on: what will it look like in your hands? And will you be asking yourselves WWMD?
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