The Ironies of “Living Coral”

Spent much time with graphic artists? Then you’re probably familiar with Pantone, the professional color standard for design in advertising, publications, fashion, cosmetics, and a whole range of products, including book cover design. It already popped up a few years ago. Remember Crazy Rich Asians?

Every year,  Pantone’s color trend-watchers proclaim a “color of the year,” and for 2019, it’s Pantone 16-1546, a soft pinky orange called “Living Coral.” Pantone considers it a life-affirming, nurturing shade, never mind the irony that the life-negating, destructive reality of global warming is fast making “living coral” an anachronism.

But let’s nod to the intent here. To Pantone, designers, including book jacket designers, will be gravitating toward this optimistic color. “It’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today,” Laurie Pressman, the Pantone Color Institute’s vice president told the Associated Press.

That all sounds so positive, I thought I’d check it against a couple of my color analysis books.

My Fortune-Telling Book of Colors has a one-word signifier for many colors, and for coral, it’s “wise.” The color in the book that better matches Pantone’s shade is “persimmon,” which signifies “healthy.” Something off there, though it captures the optimism. You like the color? Then flowers that book recommends for you are roses, tulips, dahlias, peonies, and orchids.

Especially helpful to us writers is the advice to wear this color when we want to motivate ourselves and get results.

The closest shade to Pantone 16-1546 in The Secret Lives of Color is actually amaranth, if it were a few shades paler. In another irony, garlands of amaranth (the plant) were used to honor the Greek heroes because their everlasting blossoms suggested immortality. If only that were the case for our real living coral.

Further Reading

“12 Questions to ask when hiring a book cover designer” by Diana Urban on the BookBub Partners blog, 23 January 2019.

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