The Pantone 2023 Color of the Year is bold and very ’90s

Pantone’s Color of The Year, Viva Magenta 18-1750, is “rooted in nature descending from the red family and expressive of a new signal of strength,” according to the company.

The world’s color authority has spoken, and this year, the smoke that wafted up from the Pantone conclave was tinged a deep, pinkish red: All hail Viva Magenta, Pantone’s 2023 color of the year.

The carmine tone “merges the warmth of the natural world with the endless, rich possibilities of the digital space,” said Elley Cheng, Pantone’s vice president and general manager, during the announcement on Thursday. (Which, sadly, did not actually involve any Vatican-esque smoke. It was more like a TED Talk or an Apple product reveal.)

This year’s decision, Pantone said, involved an experimental merging of human trend experts and artificial intelligence. After the humans at Pantone determined that Viva Magenta would be their pick, folks at the design firm Huge entered text descriptors of the hue into the AI art generator Midjourney to come up with the images that Pantone is using to express the shade. Attendees at Art Basel Miami will be able to “Enter the Magentaverse” and immerse themselves in the color.

Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, connected Viva Magenta to the way our lives have changed during the coronavirus pandemic. “Refusing to step back to the life we once considered normal, or the status quo, we are instead embracing the experience we’ve had … to look upon this as an opportunity to write a new narrative for ourselves and establish a new vision,” she said during the announcement. “We’ve opened this door to a whole new way of living.”

Still, for all the talk of a new moment, Viva Magenta undeniably harks to the return of a 1990s aesthetic – a natural follow-up to the resurgence of baggy jeans and Dr. Martens. For a certain subset of geriatric millennials, after all, magenta will always be linked to Lisa Frank, scrunchies and hyper-color T-shirts. In fact, for the perfect distillation of what the ’90s might look like in the “Magentaverse,” look no further than a pair of fuchsia Birkenstocks.

Aside from artificial intelligence and the pandemic, Pantone said, another major influence in its choice was the red hue of cochineal, a natural scarlet dye made by pulverizing certain scaled insects. The announcement emphasized Viva Magenta as a symbol of courage – which was a familiar spin. Last year, Pantone also said that its chosen hue inspired fearlessness, declaring that the 2022 pick, a periwinkle blue called Very Peri, had a “courageous presence” that “encourages personal inventiveness and creativity.”

But maybe they just spoke too soon in 2022. Because Viva Magenta makes Very Peri look almost mild. While Pantone describes it as “a balance between warm and cool,” Viva Magenta skews decidedly fiery. You can, of course, now find a suite of merchandise in the shade – from limited edition keychains to sneakers to a Motorola cellphone.

Since 2000, Pantone has declared an annual color of the year (or, in some years, a duo of shades) each December. Vibrant pinks have already been enjoying a moment, as spotted in the Barbiecore home design trend and the myriad shades of magenta that have recently sashayed down runways. We can all look forward to even more of the happy hue in the new year.