As director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman knows that color goes much deeper than what's on the surface.

For a company that specializes in creating hues for various industries, deciding on its Color of the Year requires a deep dive. Eiseman and her team of color experts wanted to express society's thoughts and aspirations in naming rose quartz, a pink shade, and serenity, a light blue, as Pantone's colors for 2016.


"As a society, we are seeking a soothing sense of order and peace, and our colors of the year express that need," said Eiseman, a Baltimore native. "Serenity and rose quartz also [challenge] some more traditional perceptions around color association."

To chose the colors — which annually have a big influence in home decor and other industries —Eiseman and her colleagues to traveled the globe, interviewed creative types and analyzed societal trends and behaviors. It's not simply an attention-grabbing gimmick, Eiseman said.

"This combination reflects a more unilateral approach to color [that is] coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity [and] the consumer's increased comfort with using color as a form of expression," she said. "[There is] an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage."

As head of Pantone, Eiseman wants the public to know the importance of color — how it permeates almost every aspect of life and the meaning it holds.

"Color always fascinated me," she said. "It was beyond it being a pretty color. Many of us in this field come by it because we have this innate feeling about color, just like an artist would."

So it's fitting that Pantone draws on the influence of other creative types, including some with ties to the Baltimore region.

Menswear designer and Severna Park native David Hart was one of a handful of designers who inspired the choice of serenity and rose quartz, Eiseman said. Other designers included Gucci, Chanel, Valentino and BCBGMaxAzria.

"I used both those colors," Hart recalled of his two collections last year. "I was looking at a lot of the old prints and artwork. Both of those colors were so prevalent. They are good primary colors. I just feel like men want color now — especially moving into spring. ... The days of head-to-toe black are behind us."

Hart, who participates in Pantone's annual survey, in which designers are asked about their creations for the year, was surprised to learn that his work was one of the inspirations in naming this year's colors.

"Pantone is the definitive expert and voice on colors and forecasting," Hart said. "To be included with those brands is humbling and flattering."

In addition to surveying top fashion designers like Hart, Eiseman and her team travel around the world, talking to people and observing color trends. A core group of 10, headed by Eiseman, determines the Color of the Year.

"We question people about what their feelings are about colors. We ask what speaks to them, what the colors say from an emotional perspective. We have our fingers on the pulse," Eiseman said.

The team is "on the path" to determining the color by spring of the preceding year, she said.

"By the middle of the year, we have pretty much arrived at it," she added. "We still have some wiggle space. We're wrapped up by the fall. By December, the announcement is made."


This was the first time Pantone has chosen two Colors of the Year. Also, after several years of selecting saturated hues, the team chose softer, subtle tones.

"It was a whole idea of balance," Eiseman said. "We wanted to have warm and a cool together. It was about equilibrium. We wanted to reflect the soothing area and weightless color of serenity. We liked the embracing quality that the rose quartz has. It's a highly tactile color. You want to reach out and touch it."

Color's significant role in everyday life and pop culture is something Eiseman emphasizes. For example, Apple's use of color in its computers set the company apart in the late '90s.

And there was "the dress" — a polarizing debate that dominated social media and popular culture for weeks in early 2015. The public's argument over whether a garment, shared in a photo that went viral, was blue with black lace fringe or white with gold lace fringe highlighted how lighting and photography can alter the perceptual realities of color, Eiseman said. (For the record, she saw it as blue and black.)

"But that is not to say [the debate] is erroneous or wrong," she added.

Eiseman also doesn't subscribe to color rules. Yes, you can wear white after labor day, she said, and it's perfectly fine to paint a baby's room yellow.

"It won't make a baby cry," she said. "It's ludicrous. There are no definitive studies that it causes anxiety."

Eiseman has always been drawn to color, dating back to her days working at women's clothing boutiques along Charles Street in downtown Baltimore. She has since written nine books about color and has consulted for a slew of companies helping them better incorporate color into their products. Eiseman joined Pantone in 1985 as the executive director — a title she still holds today.

"[Eiseman] is undoubtedly the world's expert on color — but where I think she really shines is in her ability to communicate about color," said Amy Anderson, a marketing communications consultant for the Seattle-based marketing firm Fleurish Partners.

"Whether it's in one of her many wonderful books or a speaking engagement or her remarks around the Color of the Year every year, she is uniquely talented at delivering color messages clearly and in an engaging way."

Anderson emphasized that Eiseman's knowledge of the "psychology of colors" is what sets her, and her work with Pantone, apart.

"Every color sends a unique message that affects a person's moods, their buying decisions and so much more," Anderson said. "Lee helps companies and individuals use the right colors to send the right messages at the right time. That's very powerful."

Veronica Ettedgui, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Venezuela who has known Eiseman for two decades, agreed. The two first met when Ettedgui invited Eiseman to speak at conference for designers, artists, illustrators and creative types in Venezuela.

"She came and gave a marvelous conference for more than 300 creative-types about psychology of color and future trends," Ettedgui said.

Years later, Ettedgui still has high praise for Eiseman.

"Leatrice Eiseman is the color expert, no doubt," she said.

Utilizing Pantone's Colors of the Year

Pantone executive director Leatrice Eiseman offers tips for incorporating rose quartz and serenity into your home decor:


Start with art: The colors are found in sunrises and sunsets, and are often reflected in paintings. "Art is a perfect place for it," she said.

In the living room: Eiseman suggests pairing an accent pillow or throw in rose quarts or serenity with a sofa in a neutral tone, such as gray. "It adds a soft look," she said.

With paint: Eiseman suggests painting three walls of a room with a neutral color and using either serenity or rose quartz for the fourth color so it really pops.

In the bedroom: Bed linens would be a good place to incorporate the two colors, Eiseman said. "It lends itself to the color combinations," she said. "It's a very pretty and soothing combination. It works for a bedroom."