Classic Blue

The PANTONE Color Institute’s official choice of color for 2020 seeks to instill ‘calm, confidence, and connection’.

Erich Hartmann Cellophane. Cross-polarization. USA. 1968. © Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker Blue Traband in Prenzlauer Berg district. East Berlin. East Germany. 1975. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Alec Soth Sleeping by the Mississippi. Dallas City, Illinois. USA. 2002. © Alec Soth | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker Cow's skull behind an iced windshield. Taos, New Mexico. USA. 1990. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Constantine Manos Daytona Beach. Florida. USA. 1997. © Constantine Manos | Magnum Photos
Olivia Arthur Billboard advert for a water park. Dubai. U.A.E. 2013 © Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos
Gueorgui Pinkhassov Bridge at sundown. Tokyo. Japan. 1996. © Gueorgui Pinkhassov | Magnum Photos
Bruno Barbey The Souk. Town of Essaouira. Morocco. 1990. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos
Peter Marlow The British Airways Concorde Charity Auction at Olympia. A sale of Concorde memorabilia following the retirement of the aircraft in 2003. London. England. G.B. © Peter Marlow | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey Salvador de Bahia. Brazil. 2002. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
Eve Arnold Housewife. Saint Matthews. South Carolina. USA. 1981. © Eve Arnold | Magnum Photos
Alex Webb Tarpaulins on boats on the Amazon fend off the rain but raise the temperature for passengers. Brazil. 1993. © Alex Webb | Magnum Photos
Peter Marlow The last days of Concorde. Taking off in the days prior to retiring from service in October 2003. Heathrow Airport. London. England. G.B. © Peter Marlow | Magnum Photos
Patrick Zachmann Ilha de Mel. State of Parana. Brazil. 2003. © Patrick Zachmann | Magnum Photos
Alex Webb Town of Key West. Florida state. USA. 1988. © Alex Webb | Magnum Photos
Cristina García Rodero Weeki Wachee Springs park. Florida. USA. 2007. © Cristina García Rodero | Magnum Photos
Stuart Franklin Africans immigrants arrive on the beach after making the crossing by boat. Tarifa. Spain. June 2001. © Stuart Franklin | Magnum Photos
Rafał Milach One of the interiors of the Alphabetic Tower. In 2013, the Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company, which supported the then president of Georgia, Micheil Saakashvili, had a television studio there. That sa (...)
Susan Meiselas Members of the Civil. Disturbance Control (CDC) at Camp Capinpin practice anti-riot techniques in anticipation of a "hot" winter in the Philippines. Tanay. Rizal Province. Philippines. 1985. © Susan Meiselas | Magnum Photos
Constantine Manos Miami Beach, Florida. USA. 2001. © Constantine Manos | Magnum Photos
Jim Goldberg Loagan, the Jeweler’s middle son. From “Postcards From America”. Utah. USA. 2015. © Jim Goldberg | Magnum Photos
Peter van Agtmael Inside the Wells Fargo Center before Obama's address to the DNC. Philadelphia. USA. 2016. © Peter van Agtmael | Magnum Photos
Jonas Bendiksen Jesus of Kitwe’s two most trusted disciples, Nkumbusko (l) and Chibwe (r). Jesus of Nazareth was a carpenter by trade. On his return two thousand years later he operates two unlicensed taxis in Kit (...)
Carolyn Drake Amy in a pool at Float Om. Eugene, OR. USA. 2015. © Carolyn Drake | Magnum Photos
Susan Meiselas Pandora's Box, Mistress Brigitte between clients. New York City. USA. 1995. © Susan Meiselas | Magnum Photos
Burt Glinn Positron Emission Transaxial Tomograph machine at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. New York. USA. 1977. © Burt Glinn | Magnum Photos
Alec Soth The Blue Room. New Orleans, LA. USA. 2018. © Alec Soth | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Snow Paradise performance. Moscow, Russia, 2019/02. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Erich Hartmann IBM components. Boulder, Colorado. USA. 1979. © Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos
Miguel Rio Branco Bullfighting backstage. Madrid. Spain. 1995. © Miguel Rio Branco | Magnum Photos
Martin Parr From 'Common Sense'. Wellington. New Zealand. 1998. © Martin Parr | Magnum Photos
Harry Gruyaert Street life in the Rif mountains. Walls are often painted in blue and white. Chechaouen. Rif. Morocco. 1987. © Harry Gruyaert | Magnum Photos
Thomas Hoepker Skulls on a blue wall Espaniola. 1990. © Thomas Hoepker | Magnum Photos
Gueorgui Pinkhassov Scenes in the Hermitage Garden, a popular meeting point. Moscow. Russia. 1993. © Gueorgui Pinkhassov | Magnum Photos
Mark Power Gents toilets under construction. Greenwich. England. February 5th, 1999. © Mark Power | Magnum Photos
Steve McCurry A fruit vendor plies his wares on a colorful pathway. Jodhpur, Rajasthan. India. 1996. © Steve McCurry | Magnum Photos
Miguel Rio Branco The changing-room at the "Academia Santa Rosa Boxing Club". Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. 1993. © Miguel Rio Branco | Magnum Photos
Peter Marlow Students bedroom. Barcelona. Spain. 1998. © Peter Marlow | Magnum Photos
Bruno Barbey Li river. Guilin. Xingping province. China. 1980. © Bruno Barbey | Magnum Photos
Miguel Rio Branco West Indians emigrated from the French Antilles squating in a building in the 14th arrondissement. © Miguel Rio Branco | Magnum Photos
Erich Hartmann Matra Espace, ultralight pallet for space payloads (detail). France. 1971. © Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Refugees welcome. Turin/Torino. Piedmont. Italy. June 2016. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos

Blue, or to give it its full and official designation – PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue – has been chosen by the famed color institute as the color of the year for 2020. For more than 20 years PANTONE has annually tipped a color for the upcoming period – the selection both a result of trend analysis, and a factor in trend-setting for fashion and design industries in the twelve months that follow.

Following 2019’s selection of Living Coral, and 2018’s Ultra Violet, this year’s choice might seem comparatively sedate. However, in its announcement the institute stressed the positive and pervasive effect that the color has upon us:

“Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color [it] brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity… Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.”

This particular shade is calmer, and somewhat darker than the vivid – almost violent – blues associated with lapis lazuli and the earliest days of mankind’s blue pigment-making. It is thought by many today that the uniform idea of ‘blue’ as a hue came into being only alongside the development of blue dyes and pigments. The ancient Greeks had no word for blue specifically: neatly evidenced by the Homeric epithet οἶνοψ πόντος which is used repeatedly throughout the Odyssey to describe the ‘wine dark sea’. Indeed, it seems that tone and mood – not color – were principal in describing the skies and seas which we today commonly think of as blue.

"Imbued with a deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking..."

- Leatrice Eisman, executive director of the PANTONE Color Institute

In a statement published as part of the announcement Leatrice Eisman, executive director of the PANTONE Color Institute, expanded further upon the power of this particular blue, especially given what seems to be a period of political and social upheaval:

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on. Imbued with a deep resonance, Classic Blue provides an anchoring foundation. A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking: challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.”

In an article titled “The Business of Being Pantone: Turning Color Into Money”, law, business and culture blog, The Fashion Law, emphasised the significance of the announcement, particularly within the fashion business. “The impact of annual selection stands to reach from the colors of the garments and accessories that appear on runways in New York, London, Milan, Paris, and beyond during any given season to the hues that florists bank on for arrangements.”

Above is a selection of only a tiny fraction of the images in the Magnum archive which capture variations upon the PANTONE color. They cover diverse settings, capture myriad moods, and range from luminescent to muted, serene to exuberant – yet all convey some degree of the sense of clarity that blue can transmit to the viewer.

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