There Is a Hidden Message In Pantone's Color of the Year, Design Experts Say

The wait is over for color addicts and designers of all stripes – Pantone has announced it’s color of the year for 2018. The crowning of the bold purple hue “Ultra Violet” will no doubt set off a frenzied race to incorporate the color into everything from supermarket packaging to homewares to wedding decorations.

But it’s not just those in the business of color who were intrigued by Pantone’s choice this year. As they do every year, commentators have also been busy analyzing the selected hue for deeper cultural meaning. As home design Apartment Therapy points out, they haven’t had to dig very far to come up with at least one intriguing possibility.

What is purple, after all, but red and blue mixed together? In our current climate of incredible political polarization might there be a message there? 

Red + Blue = Purple

Last year’s shade was a soothing leafy color dubbed “Greenery.” At the time, Pantone noted the shade signified “renewal.” Twelve months on and no green shoots of greater calm and peace are apparent in the world (to my eye at least). So perhaps Pantone is getting a little more explicit.

This year, when they announced their pick of Ultra Violet, they lauded the color’s ability to take “two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed–blue and red– and [bring] them together to create something new.”

Do warring shades of red and blue remind you of anything? If you said a CNN election night map, you weren’t the only one to put two and two together.

“The fire and the water–maybe we can come to a common ground. That there’s hope as opposed to the opposite clashing,” interior designer Martin Kesselman says, analyzing Ultra Violet in the Apartment Therapy post..

“I do think it speaks to the state of the country and the world,” he continues, both in its blending of loud opposing colors into a beautiful third, but also in its boldness. “People are voicing their opinions, and I think that design reflects that as well. They are making larger statements not only to the public and through social [media], but also in their design and in their home,” he adds.

So in this one designer’s mind at least, in-your-face purple isn’t just a prayer for some sort of coming together of the opposing political camps much of the country has parked themselves in, but also a celebration of boldness, in design but also in speech. It may even be a sly way of honoring the recent resurgence of protest and the silence shattering #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment.

Is all this reading a little too much into what is really just an annual excuse for designers to play with (and sell) a new color trend? Some will argue yes, but other color obsessives like Kasselman will see far more in Pantone’s selection of Ultra Violet. You be the judge.

Do you think there is a hidden political message in Pantone’s pick? Or is it just another excuse to sell throw pillows and T-shirts?

You'll Never Guess the Average Age of Successful Silicon Valley Founders

It’s no secret that Silicon Valley is a playground for the young. Various high-profile VCs have straight out said they prefer funding 20-somethings, and job ads routinely (and possibly illegally) note that only “digital natives” need apply. If you want more evidence of the problem, there’s no shortage of great if horrifying deep dive articles on the issue.

All of this is underpinned by the idea that, political correctness be damned, young people are simply more innovative than older folks, and given their usual lack of other life commitments, also more willing to put in the time it takes to build a billion-dollar company. If success is your only metric, this thinking goes, you’d be a fool not to prefer that recent grad in a hoodie.

There’s only one problem with this controversial but still widely believed orthodoxy. The numbers don’t back it up (despite Silicon Valley’s supposed obsession with data).

Add a decade or two to whatever you’re thinking.

How do I know? I recently checked out technologist Tim Whitwell’s fascinating list of 52 things he learned this year on Medium. (Side note: what a great end of the year exercise.) At the top of that list was a link to a blog post by entrepreneurship professor Joshua Gains laying out research presented this year on the age of entrepreneurs.

Gains renders the conclusions of this work in the form of an imagined dialogue between a skeptical reader and someone armed with the facts about age and startup success. It’s so clear and convincing, I’ll just cite it in full:

Hold on a sec, my impression from TechCrunch is that the award winners are pretty young.

Yep, around 31 or if you look at Inc and stuff like that it is 29 years.

OK so what is it like for the US?

For new firms in the US between 2007 and 2014 (aka the Y-C years), it is 41.9.

OK but that is all firms. What about technology?

It is actually higher, 43.9 with VC backed firms 41.9 and patenting firms 44.6.

Yeah but not in Silicon Valley surely?

Nope pretty much the same.

Alright but what about successful firms? That’s what the VCs care about.

In Silicon Valley, the ones with a successful exit have an average founding age of 47!

Let me underline that for you while you lift your jaw off the floor: the average age of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who have a successful exit (i.e. sell their company for a bucket load of money or take it public) is 47 years.

Good professor that he is, Gains is careful to point out that this data isn’t perfect and that research is ongoing, but he’s also pretty definitive that these results “should give Silicon Valley investors types some food for thought.” Preliminary or not, they should also probably encourage would-be entrepreneurs who are concerned they’re too old to get a truly successful business off the ground (so should history).

Numbers don’t lie. If you’re old enough to look ridiculous in a hoodie, that’s actually a sign your chances of startup success are greater than average, not less.