Official colour of 2014

Monday 14 April 2014, 8.56pm HKT

10.03am local time, 26°C (79°F), sunny and warm

IF you didn’t know years had official colours, then this news is old hat.

Pantone colours of past years

Last year we had a green hue that (for those old enough to know) was the colour of jealousy, but the world authority on colours decided to use the diplomatic name of Emerald instead. I know the colour of real emeralds and it’s not the same, but I’m happy with it still.

Last year had been a bad year and I couldn’t wait to move on to another colour.


pantone 2014 screenshot

This is PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid, the official colour of 2014.

Pantone bills this colour as:—

“An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”

via Pantone’s official press release

The American-owned international company announced the colour back in May last year, but I never got round to posting about it.

Tip: You can skip the below and go straight to the ‘Little Secret’ section for juice.

Pantone 18-3224 TCX Radiant Orchid

Every year since 2000, Pantone selects one hue as the Color of the Year, with a special symbolism for each. Pantone says it spends a whole year combing the world for colour influences to prepare each year’s signature hue.

As is always the case, Pantone’s choice quickly filters into the world of fashion and interior design, which heavily influences product development and buying decisions in across market sectors worldwide.

pantone 2014 tech

This specific colour doesn’t have a Chinese name.

I’m going to make one up and call it 晶燡蘭花紫色 (Mandarin: jīng-yì lán-huā zǐ-sè / Cantonese: jing-yik laan-faa tzi-sik). The last two characters mean purple (紫色 zǐ-sè / tzi-sik).

I can’t use the literal translation (辐射蘭花 fook-seh laan-faa) because it’ll be ‘radiation orchid.’

pantone formula guide

PANTONE Matching System (PMS) used by printers (via Wikipedia)

Might be helpful to explain why the PANTONE system is relevant to non-designers.

One man’s blue is another man’s deep purple, green-blue or light blue when used on different materials. Colours don’t show correctly on computer screens and can differ greatly from real life. Most of us don’t have calibrated monitors (or calibrated eyeballs). Annoyingly, different industries have different names for the same colour (#FF00FF: fuchsia in fashion, magenta in printing).

The PANTONE system prevents that discrepancy. It standardises colour attributes for all colours and materials. Every colour ID is a unique colour specification, allowing the fabricator or printer to replicate that colour consistently every time across different materials.

The media often describe Pantone as “the self-declared body that controls the colours” of the visible spectrum. They may scoff, but the company IS the world leader in colour science. Other standardised colour-matching systems also exist, but PANTONE is the one used by nearly everybody in the printing, graphic arts, textile and manufacturing industries (including the media itself).

pantone 2014 qualities



I’m not rehashing the stuff from the fashion mags. If Pantone’s prediction is correct, we’re set to see more of this shade de rigeur everywhere this year.

(Click the gallery for larger views)

pantone 2014 fashion tidbitsandtwine-com

Radiant Orchid for attention-grabbing

I know this colour is bold. For some it might be hard to mix and match. Pantone says it will impart a rosy glow to all men and women who wear it and “feel healthy and energetic.” Blend with browny cognac shades topped with navy blue to create a distinctive yet sophisticated palette. Pairs well with lipstick, blush and nail polish in sister shades of lavender, pinks and other purples. Go all out with the colour or as an accent to create depth and interest, there being no in-between.

Radiant Orchid for a contemporary feel

It’s lush and eye-catching, suggestive of royalty. Best look is contemporary styling. Don’t be humdrum by automatically pairing it with neutrals like whites, greys and blacks. Show cleverness and use it as a complement for greens, olive, teal, turquoises, yellows and taupé without being overpowering. Dark, textured wood floors show up especially well against this colour. Blended with orangey shades to achieve that lively ’60s or ’70s atmosphere without becoming psychedelic.

via Carlisle Wide Plank FloorsRadiant Orchid as a calm accent

If a makeover of your wardrobe or place in this colour is too much of a commitment or expense, introduce it through accent pieces in a common area.

When used as a key design accent, the striking touch of this colour creates a rich, calm contrast to clean whites whilst giving an edge to greys and blacks.

Furniture is easily replaceable in a few years’ time when you tire of the colour. Even easier is to use cushions or a picture in that hue in the living room or bedroom. Transform the bathroom with a textured shower curtain in purple.

(Images above via Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring | Tidbits & Twine | | Design You Trust | Home Brands Outlets | c4c)



I have an approximate knowledge of things.

It’s hideous…

bruises in radiant orchidIt’s the colour of bruises.

It’s the purple of weasel puke.

It makes anyone wearing it look sallow.

White people look sickly in it.

Black and brown people look bloated in it.

The colour is absolutely ghastly on yellow people, giving them that terrible pallid greyish-yellow skin tone often seen in dysentery patients.

Last year’s colour (Emerald a.k.a. the colour of jeaousy) was okay, and so was the one before (Tangerine Tango), but this one just doesn’t cut it. It’s an omen that there’s going to be lots of bruises this year then.

Or 2014: The Year of the Pepto-Bismol, if you’re superstitious about puke.

radiant orchid puke

(Radiant bruises on the girl and radiant puke both via c4c)

It’s a disco colour, and we’ve had it before…

Are we travelling back in time again?! Is it 1980 all over again?!

Radiant Orchid is the Dusty Rose that everyone in the 1980s loved (and not in a good way). This is the friend of Crayola’s Seafoam Green and the pal of country-kitsch Dusty Blue. Living rooms in dusty rose and dusty blue, remember? Everything dusty? Terrible.

It’s only suitable for lobbies of sex hotels, pickup bars, and the Holly Hobbie Doll. It’s not suitable for anything normal, trust me.

1980s living room playing atari 2600

(via The Internet Archive’s The Console Living Room)

It’s tiring to the eyes…

Purple is not an often seen colour in interior design. Fags out the eyes. You wise up to this quickly when you live the life of a printer (myself), or grew up with an architect (Dad) or a fashioner designer (Mum). Because grey has emerged as the goes-with-anything neutral, many tiring and tiresome gaudy colours are having their five minutes’ fame on the colour carousel.

Look at the text and subheads above in Radian Orchid. It just doesn’t stand out against white. It doesn’t ‘lift’ other colours either; it mutes them. See picture below. Q.E.D.

purple highlighter

That’s why lawyers use purplish grey for ‘closing out’ text

It’s really last year’s colour, innit?

What’s a seven-letter word for having a hard time finding something worthwhile but throw whatever at the world to see what sticks?

Answer: Pantone.

“The Pantone Color of the Year becomes more and more like astrology every year. I’m just unsure whether Pantone are serious with all the Barnum phrases that each colour ‘represents’ or if they just do it as a knowing joke?”Matthew D

If they’ve spent all year combing the world for colour influences, then this by default is 2013’s colour. (You didn’t notice that, did you?)

And I’ve never understood this. Why does Pantone gets to choose colour of the year? It’s like Stella Artois choosing Stella Artois as the lager of the year.

It’s an inverted colour…

I find Radiant Orchid pleasant enough but probably wouldn’t buy clothes or design anything based on it. But, gee, seems like Pantone has finally found the ‘Invert Color’ function in PhotoShop. Radiant Orchid is basically last year’s colour (Emerald) inverted!

emerald vs radiant orchid

The name, the name…

Radiant??? Orchid???

RADIATION SICKNESS Orchid, more like. Come off it, this is a dusty colour!

Radiant Orchid. It sounds slightly, you know, pretentious. Personally, I think ‘purple’ more than ‘orchid’ springs to mind with this one.

I used to have this chick back in London who was orchid-crazed and buys festoons of them all the time. This Radiation Orchid ain’t the orchid colour, I tell you. It IS the colour of soon-to-die orchids, however. Nice try, Pantone.

Interestingly, the word ‘orchid’ comes from the Greek word όρχις (‘orchis’) meaning testicle. The first written use of ‘orchid’ as a colour name in English was only in 1915. The orchid ribbon represents testicular cancer awareness.

For those of you old enough to know (or know better), you might like to recount some fascinating but by-now-forgotten facts to the young ones:—

Mauve a.k.a. Dusty Purple

This is simply the mauve that your mum told you about from her schooldays, when she and your dad decided to invent you in the back of the car when she pulled her mauve knickers off.

Rocket Metallic

If you’re a biker (the dudes with the leather jackets on, not the ones on bicycles), you’ll recognise it with both eyes closed because that’s what the other biker was riding on when he groped your girlfriend at the last petrol station.

Antique Fuchsia a.k.a. Chinese Purple

If you hate bikers (because you’re a cyclist), this is the name for the above other biker when he nearly ran you over as he was making his getaway from groping at the petrol station. It was also the only colour of Chinese orchid flowers available until the growers FQQ’D with the genes.

Cattleya libiata orchid wikipedia

The orchid Cattleya labiata (via Wikipedia)

I’m just going to call it Raspberry Sorbet, you know, the kind you find in a secondhand store (background music now: Prince’s “Raspberry Parade”). That’s because it reminds a lot of people (on the Internet, of course) of a sorbet (sherbet). Others claim the colour looks like it has the smell of a berry smoothie. Of course, these people probably have uncalibrated monitors, or they have synesthesia. Bourbon St Hurricane rolls off the tongue nicely. Bastard Hogberry works too. Hokey-Pokey Pukey Orchid at least has all the right ’kay sounds.

The world is just SIX colours…

Listen, the rainbow is just six colours. Red – orange – yellow – green – blue – PURPLE.

Indigo and violet are both basically just purple. Everything else is just splitting hairs.

Honeysuckle (2011)? It’s a red. Tangerine Tango — orange! Emerald — green, obviously. Radiant Putrid? Purple.

If printers like me could do up nearly all the colours of the known/visible universe with just CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black), then everything else IS just splitting hairs.

So I’m going to put myself to the hazard and say, roughly speaking, there might be a six-year cycle to Pantone’s Color of the Year.

That’s just your opinion, man…

Every year I look forward to this Color of the Year thing. Peaked with Tangerine Tango, I’m afraid. Black is always in style, no matter what Pantone says. So is white.

4 Responses to “Official colour of 2014”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    Somehow I doubt they’ll have that in my size at the thrift shops — which is where I usually buy my clothes.


  2. Jay said

    Casting my eye over Pantone’s previous colors of the year, I find them all lacking. Maybe they should fire their color consultants.


Comments are closed.

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