Welcome To the Magentaverse: Pantone’s 2023 Color of the Year is Viva Magenta
by Bill McCool on 12/01/2022 | 5 Minute Read
Nearly every year, we have an informal office pool where we try to figure out what the next Pantone Color of the Year will be. While some of us have been rooting for Apocalyptic Black for several years (re: me), we’ve always been wrong—we just can’t read the tea leaves when it comes to Pantone and how they land on what the next trending color will be.
If only one of us had said red-ish, pink-ish, or purple-ish, we’d have to award some serious points and PTO because the 2023 Pantone Color of the Year is magenta. Specifically, that’s Pantone 18-1750 Viva Magenta (or just black for all of you folks working hard in the Adobe creative suite at this very moment).
Pantone describes the extra spectral color—and beloved character from The Rocky Horror Picture Show—as “vibrating with vim and vigor,” one that’s “rooted in nature descending from the red family” and “demonstrating a new signal of strength.” It’s dynamic and bright, but it’s yet another color that hints at how folks want to feel an appropriate amount of joy in their life, despite our world being an interminable rollercoaster of division and isolation.
“As virtual worlds become a more prominent part of our daily lives, we look to draw inspiration from nature and what is real,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, in a press release. “PANTONE 18-1750 Viva Magenta descends from the red family and is inspired by the red of cochineal, one of the most precious dyes belonging to the natural dye family as well as one of the strongest and brightest the world has known. Rooted in the primordial, PANTONE 18-1750 Viva Magenta reconnects us to original matter. Invoking the forces of nature, it galvanizes our spirit, helping us to build our inner strength.”
What’s unique about this COY, however, is that it follows a similar trajectory to last year’s choice of Very Peri. While that was a new color created by Pantone, it was another shade that can work in two very different worlds—the physical and the digital.
“The last few years were transformative in many ways in terms of people’s sense of self and the way well-being, priorities, and identity are being thought about,” said Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, in the same press release. “As a result, space has been created where we are free to explore and be accepted for exactly who we feel we are, whether it be in a cybernetic universe, a conventional space, or a magical blend of both. We are creating a dynamic world that encourages experimentation, one that leverages the virtual within the physical realm and emboldens our strength and spirit to explore groundbreaking possibilities.”
To demonstrate some of these new directions and possibilities, Pantone and creative partner Huge wanted to explore the “tensions” (or anger) between IRL creativity and technology by working with the artificial intelligence (AI) research lab Midjourney. Using Viva Magenta as their inspiration, they cooked up immersive, colorful worlds that speak to Pantone’s feelings and ideas about the color, works that have one foot in nature and the other in the world of tomorrow dubbed the “Magentaverse.” Pantone and ARTECHOUSE Miami will bring this experience to life on December 3rd with an exhibit at Art Basel Miami Beach.
While 2023 might have a more magenta sheen, it’s also a steady reminder that, whether designers like it or not, the metaverse is coming. If Mark Zuckerberg and Meta drop more than $100 billion on something most people think looks objectively awful, Pantone partners with AI-generative art facilitators like Midjourney, and Adobe continues to invest in 3D and AI-powered design tools, then it looks all but inevitable.
Since 2020’s classic blue (and maybe that color was spot on because we’d all be blue that year), it’s been a steady barrage of bright, ebullient colors that play well in 3D spaces and promote “joy,” whatever that is in this day and age. Illuminating Yellow from 2021 (but not Ultimate Gray, obviously), last year’s Very Peri, and now Viva Magenta are the brand of hues you’d potentially find on your own furry avatar in whatever your preferred meta world is or the predominant color of a Lovecraftian horror flick starring Nic Cage and a heard of alpacas running amok. That they even partnered with Midjourney speaks volumes not only about the AI-design renaissance that’s creeping up on us, but where the design world is heading.
Of course, I’m not entirely sure Viva Magenta feels of this world; likely, it points to an element or sense of escapism, the same kind you would see vomited all over Fortnight or Roblox. Why deal with this world when you could just see what the ol’ Magentaverse can offer? Americans, in particular, are spending more time alone than ever before—this was happening before the pandemic but rose during and afterward. Increasingly, we’re living more online or on our phones. That isn’t remotely a new observation, of course, but by talking up new virtual worlds and "endless new ecosystems," maybe a little splash of color—say, magenta—would be warmly welcomed.
But maybe that’s a lot of alarmism to throw onto one silly little color. Who knows!
So what does it all mean anyway? Well, it’s gonna be a pretty reddish-purplish-pinkish-mauve kind of year, and design and color will continue marching towards the future and virtual realms. So you better start saving for that clunky eyesore of an Occulus headset while you can.
Images courtesy of Pantone.