January 8, 2011

AMUSE BUSH -Lonicera sempervirens, as Pantone® 'Color of the Year'

The design world is scrambling....ever since it was announced in December. The predictions of what color will be chosen this year provided enough chatter on the design blogs, panini shops, tattoo parlors, Starbucks and brewhouses from New York City, to Rio, that  no one could really predict exactly what color out of the 256 tones might be the final winner. It could very well have been mustard, or coral, even Nimbus, but on December 9th ( sorry to be SO late in announcing this), the Pantone company, the company that produces color swatches and color chips for the creative and design communities,  announced that the 'it' color of the year is in fact, Lonicera. Oops, I mean 'Honeysuckle...(Pantone number 2120). Now we can all rest.

According to a press release sent out by Pantone, this year's color was selected to "help us face the calamities rained down on us in our everyday lives" :
As we prepare to ring in the New Year, amid the hustle and bustle of the season, we must say goodbye to the 2010 color of the year – PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise and hello to the next great hue. Today, Pantone, the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, revealed a dynamic reddish pink, PANTONE 18-2120Honeysuckle, as the color of the year for 2011. ...Honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor. A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.
According to MacLife, this announcement is a relief. 
"Indeed. A calming color choice for these chaotic times. Thank you PANTONE: By thrusting 18-2120
Honeysuckle unto the masses, you've given the people of planet earth the strength and inner peace we'll need to make it through 2011 in one piece

And now, ever since the announcement, the design blogs of the world have responded, clearly they have embraced the directive ( prescription) but not all of them.

Blogs everywhere are 'confirming' this choice. But Google the words Honeysuckle flower, and what do you get? Who chooses these names?

The concept of a common name of a plant as a color them  is surely amusing to many of us who are closer to the earth, but since we too work with color, we understand the need for some direction or tent pole to base our ideas around.  I suppose that we should consider ourselves fortunate that the color of the year was not 'Rose', (which would sound very old school), but  'Honeysuckle'?  Yeah.. maybe it, sounds more 'sexy' than, um, 'pink', and 'Velthemia bracteata would clearly be too fancy for any color expert. This selection, personally, feels expected. I mean, if I was asked to describe this color of the year choice? I would say that it was "Susan B. Komen Ribbon Pink", nice, but if anything, annoyingly omnipresent.

Still, as plantspeople, we might all agree on one thing.... any Honeysuckle is hardley a 'choice' plant for our gardens, unless it was some rare, winter-blooming species like Lonicera fragrantissima ( still, rather unexciting outside of February).  I can't help but imagine a WalMart plant department with black vinyl pots and $6.99 Honeysuckle plants all messy and weedy...not exactly a noble choice for my garden. 'Honeysuckle' may conjure up a romantic image as a cutflower in the eye of a young hipster who wants to choose a paint chip for her bathroom in her Brooklyn brownstone, but as a spokescolor? I'm not so sure that it is the color I would select.

Maybe I take issue with the label more than the tint, but really...  most Lonicera are weedy, aggressive shrubs and vines and I don't know about you, but attributing a global trend to something as butch as a Kudzu vine on steroids may not be the best decision. Maybe it's the backstory that makes this selection that makes it so intriguing?  In a "back-alley-trailer-park-dumpster-vine-makes-it big-in-NYC-sort-of-way; not unlike the winner of a 'color reality show', not unlike a winner from 'America Can Dance' or 'Hells Kitchen'. but is it powerful enough to wear the crown (and the immense responsibility) of a 'color-of-the-moment '? For that matter, I wonder what color came in as runner up? It just makes it hard to argue unless I  know such facts.

I suppose that we should all be grateful that the experts on the color nominating committee passed over 'Euonymus alatus', (Pantone 806 florescent) or any Berberis in its autumnal flush, ( a double hit of Pantone 806). The last thing we need is another refrigerator container in the color of  Fire Bush or a Berberis colored toilet scrubber, (Pomegranate ....mmmmaybe? But definitely not Berberis....eew.).

Since the big announcement, design blogs have been abuzz with  a flurry of perfectly pink posts, most bloggers seem to be taking anything that is 'warm coral pink', and then attributing the label 'Honeysuckle' to it. So I sit back, and watch the crazyness, but wow, it is particularly 'crazy' this time, which has be wondering, have we as humans lost our color compass? Why do designers 'need' someone telling them what the color of the year is? Isn't that their job?

 Look... some full disclosure here......I  have spoken at design conferences about design, especially on color trends in the past,and I am color expert myself.  I've even presented along side Pantone's expert Leatrice Eiseman, ( a smart and lovely lady) who drives all of this in her business as a 'Full Service Color Consultant'; so I'm more that a little bit qualified to both joke about this, and to critique and examine it; but aside from the factual influences that Ms. Eiseman cites, I can't help but question the need for this announcement, since  isn't it a little 'sad' that we as a culture feel the need to select one single color as 'color of the year'?

 Worst of all, her client will rejoice with her selection even though they don't 'like pink' because after all, it IS the 'color of the year' and people will want it.  And the result will affect you and me, the public, for we will feel the pressure to invest ANOTHER Kitchen Aid stand mixer, this one, to match our new Honeysuckle kitchen tossing our 2010 color of the year, Turquoise, mixer into the recycling bin ( I'm not sure what color-of-the-year that was).

It has been fun to visit the design blogs who are celebrate this choice..... just look at the Honeysuckle Madness.....( yes, it is pretty, but...)

On another note, as a plantsman, aren't you confused with the color itself? I thought honeysuckle was white, or yellow?

 I am so confused.

The subject of color labeling is grand enough for ten additional posts, but focusing on 'Honeysuckle' for a moment more.... let's amuse ourselves, and Google it.
Hmmm. Is Honeysuckle pale pink? Golden yellow? Red? White?

I always imagine it as pale yellow. And I am sticking to it.

Thankfully, the design community KNOWS what hue and tint HONEYSUCKLE is, but I feel the need to go to the paint store now. All I know now is, that I think that I should choose my own COLOR OF THE YEAR, what do you think? Send me your suggestions, and I will post them!


  1. Great post and an even greater title. "Amuse bush" has got to be the cleverest play on words that I have seen on line in along time.

  2. Thanks! I took a risk, pushing it a bit.

  3. Brilliant - I am a designer and still wonder where they get the names from, as, like yourself, I always think of honeysuckle as yellow - still, it's a pretty colour, although my clients usually just go for 'beige' :)


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