What Is Viva Magenta, Pantone’s ‘Brave’ and ‘Fearless’ Color of the Year?

As 2023 approaches, the bold pinkish-red is supposed to reflect the global zeitgeist

Promotional material for Viva Magenta
Viva Magenta is Pantone's color of the year for 2023. Courtesy of Pantone

The video announcing Panatone’s 2023 color of the year, which was revealed on Thursday, begins with black and white vignettes underlaid with a dramatic thumping drum: empty streets, a traffic sign telling the public to “stay at home,” a man in an N-95 mask gazing longingly out of a window.

Then a child opens his eyes, and like Dorothy entering Oz, his black and white surroundings transform into a world of color. The music, suddenly hopeful, swells into a release as text appears in white block letters: Viva Magenta.

That’s right, Pantone’s color of the year for 2023 is a bold pinkish-red—officially called Viva Magenta, or Pantone 18-1750.

The color and design company has selected a color of the year annually since 2000. To make its selection, Pantone observes current trends in fashion, home decor, film, technology and more to identify its color of the year, which is also intended to hold up a mirror to the culture and capture its mood.

Pantone describes Viva Magenta as “a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration, writing a new narrative.” Words like “brave,” “fearless” and “empowering” come up over and over again in the company’s announcement

Magenta, in all its exuberance, is certainly a departure from Pantone’s recent selections. For 2020, Pantone selected Classic Blue, a dark color meant to provide “a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit”—and that was before the pandemic. Heading into 2021, Pantone offered up two colors. One was a joyful yellow called Illuminating; the other was a somber Ultimate Gray. Last year’s selection was Very Peri, a purplish periwinkle Pantone described as “a symbol of the global zeitgeist of the moment and the transition we are going through.”

Viva Magenta, and Pantone’s marketing of it, are also reflections of the zeitgeist: After selecting the color, Pantone used Midjourney, the artificial intelligence image-generation tool, to make artistic interpretations of the color. Pantone calls these images the “Magentaverse,” which the company describes as an “endless new ecosystem to be explored.” Part of the Magentaverse is an immersive, fuschia-driven exhibition at ARTECHOUSE in Miami. In addition, as the New York Times Callie Holtermann points out, “the actual swatch of this color is so similar to TikTok’s ‘follow’ and ‘upload’ buttons.”

Though the bright color reflects technological advances, Pantone says its selection was actually inspired by nature. The color is similar to cochineal, a natural red dye derived from a type of small insect. “In this age of technology, we look to draw inspiration from nature and what is real,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says in a statement.

Magenta, though, is technically not real, at least according to scientists. That’s because, unlike other colors, magenta doesn’t have a corresponding wavelength of light. As the Times’ Vanessa Friedman puts it, it is “simply that place where blue fades into red.” That combination, she writes, is “maybe optimistic,” at least politically speaking. Then again, the fact that it doesn’t technically exist is a “less positive sign.“

Pantone would like the public to hold onto any optimism Viva Magenta stirs within them. “The name of the color itself tells you this is a color to celebrate with, an exuberant color that promotes optimism and joy,” Eiseman tells Time magazine’s Cady Lang. “There’s no way you’re going to walk into a room if you’re wearing this color and not have attention go to you. It’s audacious. It’s witty and inclusive—it welcomes anyone and everyone with the same rebellious spirit.”

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