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Ultimate Gray, Illuminating are both Pantone's 2021 Color of the Year: 'Essential to the human spirit'

Ultimate Gray and Illuminating are Pantone's 2021 picks for Color of the Year.

2020 may have felt bleak, but Pantone's two Color of the Year picks for 2021 are here to remind us a new year is on the horizon. 

Ultimate Gray and Illuminating, a cheery butter yellow, were selected as "two independent colors that come together to create an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day," Pantone announced Wednesday. 

After an unpredictable, unprecedented year, Ultimate Gray symbolizes a quiet reassurance and resilience, while Illuminating reflects sunshine and optimism about a better tomorrow. 

 “The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute in a news release. 

“Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”

Looking for some 2021 fashion inspiration? These Pantone shades are likely to show up on products in the coming year.

Since 2000, Pantone's team of color experts have analyzed color trends and influences from entertainment, art, fashion, design, travels and other lifestyle inspirations to arrive at a color – or in this year's case, two – that highlights top global trends. 

Pantone's 2020 pick, Classic Blue, was meant to represent stability, constancy and connection. Recent years' winners include Living Coral, Ultra Violet and Greenery. The last time Pantone chose two colors in one year was 2016, with Rose Quartz and Serenity, a calming periwinkle.

This year, Pantone partnered with immersive digital art space Artechouse in New York City to submerge guests into the Color of the Year through a Classic Blue-themed interactive exhibit. They plan to do so again next year with a "unique augmented reality experience" inspired by Ultimate Gray and Illuminating.