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Living Coral : Pantones’ 2019 Colour of the Year

An inspired colour to warm our souls.

issue eight : animal instincts

“An animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge”

For those of you who have not yet heard the news… Pantone has unveiled their Colour of the Year, inspired by an extraordinary animal. One that does more for us as a species than we might realise.

Yes, I am talking about coral.

Coral is one of those things that is more often than not, misunderstood. Many people still thinking coral is a type of plant species, or mineral….when in actuality, it is very much an animal. To be precise, corals are sessile marine invertebrates within the class Anthozoa of the phylum Cnidaria (meaning they have to attach themselves to something, in this case the ocean floor).

What’s in a name?

It’s interesting that Pantone have chosen the name 16-1546 Living Coral, because the reality is, the coral is dying.

Once, the technicolour landscapes of the ocean are now, swiftly becoming ghosts of their former selves… and we – yes, us human’s – are to blame.

Pantone’s statement on the colour:

“Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.

In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.

Representing the fusion of modern life, PANTONE Living Coral is a nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time, displays a lively presence within social media.

PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral emits the desired, familiar, and energizing aspects of color found in nature. In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, PANTONE Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.”

So, while the motivation behind 2019’s Colour of the Year is a lovely one, the irony is that it will no doubt damage this endangered species even further. How, you ask? Well, it’s simple really…it’s because this colour will be used to sell ‘stuff’ to us. Stuff to make us feel better about the dire environmental and political situations we are now in. Stuff we don’t need. Stuff which is made from petro-chemicals, which are a blatant and direct cause of the coral dying. Stuff that we will discard within a year…because there will be a new colour on the block.

What coral can teach us about being human


This faceless, misunderstood creature of ocean floors can teach us more about humanity than you may realise…

They teach us that, despite being tiny on their own, together, they can quite literally change the shape of the world:

“Coral” as we know it, is actually made up of hundreds to thousands of identical, individual polyps that live together in colonies.

They teach us that in order to survive, we need to work together:

As coral cannot produce its own food, it has formed an ingenious symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae lives within the corals’ soft tissue, where it is provided with safety and waste product it needs for photosynthesis – and in turn, the algae helps to feed the coral, oxygenate the water, and helps with waste management – all the things the coral needs to flourish and grow.

They teach us that we need diversity to thrive:

Much like humans – and despite its singular representation in 2019 – coral is not one kind or one colour. It is made of countless colours and variety. Not only for practicality, but for beauty too.

They teach us that we need to nurture other species to feed the masses:

Coral reefs are known as the ‘nurseries of the sea’. They provide a safe and beneficial environment for other animals – ie: fish – to spawn and live. In turn, these fish become part of the human food chain.

They teach us that there are cycles to life and that need death to go on living:

Stony or hard coral going through the same life cycles as us. They live and they die. Their dead matter forms the limescale base that the next generation to grow from.

They teach us, that when we are stressed and afraid by changing climate (environmental and political), we push away the very people we need to keep us whole:

The stress of their changing climate – due to ocean temperature rises and other factors like sunscreen and land minerals – they expel the very algae that helps them flourish. This leads to a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. While coral bleaching does not mean certain death in the short term, prolonged periods of this bleaching do lead to the coral dying off.

They teach us, the despite their might and having been on this planet for millennia, they (and us) are not immune to extinction:

The relationship between these animals and plants has allowed coral to thrive for 25 million years. They are – collectively – the largest biological structures on earth and are rivalled only by old-growth forests in their ecological longevity – they are dying off because of human intervention.

How to be responsible with pantone’s 16-1546 Living Coral in 2019, and beyond

Use it to inspire and energise your mind, but don’t buy beauty products or clothing (or any other stuff for that matter) because it’s an ‘on trend’ colour.

If the colour doesn’t suit you, don’t wear it because it is more likely to drain your own beautiful colouring.

Use up what you have. No doubt you will have similar colours in your beauty arsenal, so use those up first. Mix a couple of reds, pinks and peaches to reflect a colour that makes you feel alive.

If you are privileged enough going into the coral’s habitat, be sure to wear coral-save sunscreens.

Make a personal pledge to limit your carbon footprint, and put pressure on your government to honour the 2015 Paris-Agreement, ensuring that we keep global temperatures no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Even this only ensures that we save 10% of the world’s coral. More than that, we will be losing 95% of the coral in the next twelve years.

Further reading

What does coral have to do with medicine?

Benefits of Coral Reefs

Dying Coral : Marine Savers

How coral reefs can help us endure climate change




National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationU.S. Department of Commerce

untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

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