Viva Magenta, Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2023, is in some ways the antithesis of the 2022 color, Very Peri. This year’s color is a red pink with blue undertones, whereas last year’s hue was a periwinkle blue with red undertones. What’s more, according to Leatrice Eiseman, the Pantone Color Institute’s executive director, Viva Magenta “is inspired by the red of cochineal, one of the most precious dyes belonging to the natural dye family as well as one of the strongest and brightest the world has known.” In contrast, Very Peri referenced the fusion of the virtual and physical worlds, in particular the distinctive glow of digital screens.
Perhaps most significant, Pantone described Very Peri as displaying a “daring curiosity” well suited for “transitional times.” Viva Magenta, however, is “expressive of a new signal of strength,” “brave and fearless,” and “audacious”—nothing transitional or tentative here. Brands and publications eager to make a strong statement appealing to adventurous or blasé audiences might want to incorporate this bold color in their packaging, branding, and graphic design.
Time for Optimism
Viva Magenta is a more complex color than the magenta of CMYK. According to Pantone, it’s “a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes a joyous and optimistic celebration, writing a new narrative,” and it “revels in pure joy, encouraging experimentation and self-expression without restraint.” Some have commented that CTAs on TikTok are rendered in a similar shade, which certainly is consistent with the color’s self-expression aspect. Other communications-related firms, including T-Mobile, LG, and Aio Wireless, also use shades of magenta in their logos and branding.
Non-telecom companies, such as Dunkin’, have long incorporated magenta hues to express the fun, happy aspects of their brands. Nichole Bosso, a freelance creative director and visual designer based in Portland, OR, has noticed magentas being used more frequently in a number of industries lately, a trend she can get behind: “The idea of choosing a powerful color, like a red, but a somewhat softer twist, with the pink edge, feels very celebratory, and I’ll never say no to that!”
The exuberance that defines Viva Magenta can be seen as a reaction to the more muted and cautious mood and palettes of the past few years. Pantone used “dependable and stable” to describe its 2020 color pick, Classic Blue—ironic given it was announced just prior to the COVID pandemic. Pantone called its 2021 picks, Ultimate Gray and the yellow shade Illuminating, “a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness”—optimistic, perhaps, but cautiously so. Viva Magenta, on the other hand, seems to be tapping into a hunger for novelty and good cheer as we emerge from our pandemic isolation while facing some economic uncertainties. In this it speaks to the frothy Barbiecore aesthetic, “which I feel is influencing a lot of trends in retail,” says Tantika Tivorat, a New York-based freelance creative director.
”In terms of my digital work and illustration, this seems like a fun color to integrate.
Trends vs. Timelessness
Shortly after Pantone announces its Color of the Year, a number of consumer goods manufacturers release limited-edition products featuring it. This year, for instance, Motorola introduced a cell phone in Viva Magenta, Deepa Gurnani incorporated it into jewelry designs, and Cariuma debuted several styles of shoes in the color.
In terms of packaging and graphic design, Pantone suggests incorporating the color as a way of standing out among paler, more neutral hues, “whether consumers are scrolling on their phones or browsing the aisles.” In fact, because reds and pinks are sometimes tricky to use online due to ADA regulations regarding color contrast and accessibility, Viva Magenta might seem even more novel when used in print.
Bosso can see herself using Viva Magenta on occasion. “In terms of my digital work and illustration, this seems like a fun color to integrate,” she says. “In terms of packaging, Pantone is prone to picking colors for their yearly choice that require having the PMS reference in print. This is no exception. It’s a beautiful color, but based on your [packaging] material, it may lose the vibrancy that is certainly the appeal of this color. Taking that into consideration is part of our job as designers though, I suppose!”
Tivorat is also open to incorporating Viva Magenta as an accent “if it relates to the project.” She views Pantone’s annual announcements as being directional more than actionable. “It’s good information to know. Trends are important, but they’re also always changing. It’s important to create work that doesn’t just look visually appealing but also has meaning; I believe that work will live with us longer.”
Bosso agrees. “I always enjoy seeing what color Pantone chooses,” she says. “Now that I work largely in brand design, I’ve found that trending colors aren’t as essential to me, as it’s more important to design for longevity and identity than for what’s popular at the moment.”