Color has played an important part in U.S. history. Often the popular colors that emerge during certain time periods are keys to understanding the complex moods of a generation. Just thinking back to a high school U.S. History class, distinctive color palettes truly belong in certain decades. The avocado-colored appliances of the ‘70s? Black and neon grunge of the ‘80s? Just as we see trends in advertising, these color trends are hugely significant in demonstrating the mood of the time.
A new book entitled PANTONE The 20th Century in Color by Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker explores American history in this inventive way, through color. In a recent Tone by Pantone interview, the authors discussed what they discovered when exploring color palettes decade by decade.
There were fascinating parallels, the authors found, between social trends, events and conditions of the day. An example they provided was the dichotomy of color trends that emerged during the Great Depression. On one end they found vibrant, Wizard of Oz-esque colors they described as “amusing colors of Technicolor” and on the opposite end were thoughtful, demure and serious palettes expressed in advertisements and even Hollywood fashions of the day. While one presents an optimistic, “things will get better” attitude, the other expresses the inherent moodiness and often more realistic seriousness reflecting Depression-era hardships.
During World War II and similarly post-9/11, we saw an increase in patriotic red, white and blue. It seems as though color can influence mood just as much as events can inspire color trends. It seems appropriate that as we climb further out of the recession, Pantone named “Tangerine Tango” as the color of the year for 2012. This bright, bold color brings an optimistic, happy feel and is described as providing “the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward.” As we enter the early 2010s, the question then becomes, what will be the main color trends for this decade?