A turquoise kind of year

Some call it aquamarine, robin’s egg or Tiffany blue. The Pantone Color Institute calls it turquoise, and it’s the company’s official color of 2010.

For the Home section, the announcement is something of a confirmation. Back in July, writer Barbara Thornburg declared turquoise a hot hue, alerting readers that they might see the shade on more plates, carpets, pillows and other accents for the home.

Now, Pantone, the company that sets color standards for design industries, has chosen turquoise as the singular hue exemplifying consumer attitudes and preferences this year. Pantone says the color “evokes thoughts of soothing tropical waters and a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well-being.”

Color guru Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Color Institute, is leading a color and design workshop from Jan. 28 to 31 at the Residence Inn Burbank Downtown (details at In a recent interview, she explained how Pantone picked its color of the year.


Why turquoise?

We look at what’s happening in the world around us and at what we hope will be an indicator for the next year’s color. We look at socioeconomic indicators and what’s coming down the runways. With turquoise, we see people wanting to feel safe and protected from some very large, looming concerns in the world. I wanted to choose a color that speaks to lifting people’s spirits, a color to give people something hopeful to look forward to.


How do you conduct color research?

In the color-word association studies that I have used in my training classes for a number of years, I show people various chips of Pantone colors and ask them to react with a word or short phrase. I ask: “What is the first thing you think of when you see this color?”

What do your subjects say when you show them turquoise?

They speak of going off to some exotic, wonderful, tropical place, of escape, oceans and islands. With turquoise, there is also a secondary response with turquoise jewelry. Turquoise stones are seen in some parts of the world as protective talismans. Because it is believed to be protective, turquoise is also symbolic of faith, truth, compassion and healing. And of course, we always look to nature for inspiration, and this goes back to the ocean. There’s that almost blue-green atmosphere in the tropics.

How successful is turquoise in fashion and interiors?

We’ve seen turquoise paired with browns or pure white, but it also complements reds and pinks. . . . I also like to defy the old rule about mixing turquoise with yellow-green.


How do you tell whether your color predictions are accurate?

Every color is cyclical and goes through periods of popularity. Interestingly, there has been an undercurrent of turquoise for six or seven years. After we named Mimosa Yellow as the color for 2009, we did an analysis of the top-selling Pantone colors for home and fashion. Sure enough, up popped Mimosa Yellow. It is not usual for a color like yellow to be in the top assortment as far as sales of color swatches are concerned. The presence of yellow reflects what designers and manufacturers are specifying.

So when you declare color of the year, does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Maybe there is some of that involved. Manufacturers and designers do look to forecasters for help and inspiration. But our color of the year is just a guide, not an edict. When I want a new toaster in yellow, I can find it. I can also paint my kitchen cabinets in that same shade of yellow. And I can find it easier to shop and pick up items in that same color family. That’s the benefit to the consumer.