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What Every Designer Needs To Know About Millennial Pink
Kevin Whipps September 2, 2021 · 6 min read
Defining the ColorWe’ve got to start out this process by defining the color itself. As it turns out, that’s a little bit difficult. New York Magazine describes it: “… ranges from beige with just a touch of blush to a peach-salmon hybrid …”, which is about as accurate a way to put it as possible. Basically, the shade varies depending on where you’re at, but this is the lightest of pinks, with no neon shades whatsoever. This is the specific swatch of Millennial Pink we’re using for this article, in case you want to apply it to your next project: But to describe it just by its hex code would do it a disservice. As New York Magazine also put it in another article, “Instead it’s ironic pink, pink without the sugary prettiness. It’s a non-color that doesn’t commit, whose semi-ugliness is proof of its sophistication.” The idea here is that it’s not the pink you grew up with, or the one my daughter has loved seemingly since birth. Instead it’s pink without being pretentious, and subtle enough to be worn anywhere. Whatever you do though, don’t describe it as flesh colored. Not only is that offensive to anyone that’s not caucasian, it’s inaccurate — unless you have a particularly odd shade of self tanner, maybe.
The Millennial PartI’ve read a lot about generations and generational differences recently, and most of them have made me roll my eyes heavily. I personally don’t believe that people should be lumped into categories like cat food or clothes from the Gap. But if you must put people into boxes, then Millennials are people born from 1982-1997, and usually have Baby Boomers as parents. What does this all mean? Well, again, by generalizing, we can say that Millennials grew up with the Internet, particularly those born later in the cycle. They’re younger — 20 to 35 years old — and 50 percent of them feel that gender runs on a spectrum. All this is to say that as a whole, many Millennials don’t feel that pink is a boy or a girl color, they just want to like what they want to like. And in this case, it’s a very pale pink. Walk into an Apple store and you’ll find this out personally. You know the Rose Gold shade of iPhone? The joke around some Apple stores is that it should be called “Bros Gold” because of all the guys that buy them (and yes, this isn’t Millennial Pink, but you get the idea). Women love the shade just as much, and although we won’t ever get the numbers broken out by Apple, I’d bet dollars to donuts that they sell a ton of Rose Gold iPhones.
Social Media Gets InvolvedDepending on your perspective, Tumblr is either the best place ever, or a free repository for pornography and horrible cat GIFs. But if you’re on Tumblr, you know that scrolling through your feed can become a highly curated experience unlike Facebook or Twitter. And if you’re into fashion or design, it’s a great place to spawn ideas. Tumblr didn’t make this color, but it certainly did help popularize it. Fashionistas scrolling through their feeds watched the color pop in and out, and it got to the point where it was hard to ignore. You could find it in the highly GIFable Drake video, “Hotline Bling,” and even made it to the cover of that single.
Where did it Come From?So far, if you’re a loyal reader to this blog you might think that the idea came from Pantone, and you’d be wrong. According to Fashionista, the color first appeared in the Asia-Pacific region around 2014. Back then it was named, “Shim,” which here in the States is considered to be an insult to transgender people. But knowing that the taxonomy of “Shim” is “she” and “him,” the rather awkward naming of the color does make sense. It’s a universal hue that both men and women can like equally. It challenges what should be stereotyped by gender, and that is a good thing, even if the original moniker is horrific. Pantone, however, did pick Rose Quartz as one of its colors of the year in 2016. Turns out though that they may have gotten lucky. Often these colors are picked way in advance, so the timing could have just worked out. Were they psychic? Lucky? Who knows, but either way, Pantone did help bring the color up further into the public eye. From there, it just rocketed up and away. Some consider it to be a pushback to the political cycle that we’ve gone through as late. Some just see it on the runway and want to make it theirs. And still other people just look at it as an evolution. Whatever the case, it’s here, and we’ll likely see it around for the next year or two at a minimum.
So what does this mean for you?Well, good question. As a designer, you’re going to encounter this color in a bunch of different ways. Possibly you’ll have a client that wants to integrate the color into their website, or another that wants to use it for their logo. Should you use it at all, or is it just a trend? Chances are pretty good that it’s a trend, but it’s one with a particularly long tooth. There are entire brands that use the color heavily, so don’t be afraid to use it. Worst case scenario, you’ll have to tweak things later on. That’s also one of the cool things about Millennial Pink. It’s one of those colors that matches up nicely with neutral shades like white, black, gray, and some beiges, which means that if you use it in a design it will likely be paired up with one of those colors. That means that if Millennial Pink decides to go the way of the dinosaur, you can swap it out with virtually anything else and be just fine. That’s a pretty great place to be as a designer in my book.
Keep on Movin’Colors rise and fall in popularity all the time, and Millennial/Tumblr Pink will fall prey to that at some point or another. But today it’s here, and as a designer you should definitely get out there and use it. I know I’m going to work it into my system, because even though I don’t fit into the demo, I sure do like that color.
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