Citing consumers’ desire for real human connections amid an increasingly negative social media landscape, the trend forecasters and colour experts at Pantone have selected Living Coral, a “life-affirming” and “nurturing” shade, as 2019’s colour of the year. The announcement was made at Art Basel Miami Beach last week.

“With everything that’s going on today, we’re looking for those humanising qualities because we’re seeing online life dehumanising a lot of things,” Laurie Pressman, the Pantone Color Institute’s vice-president, told the Associated Press. “We’re looking toward those colours that bring nourishment and the comfort and familiarity that make us feel good.”

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Pantone has been analysing cultural trends since 2000 to predict what colour will be ubiquitous in the art, fashion and design worlds in the coming year. The company has hinted that it’s hoping to influence society, too.

“The Pantone Colour of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today,” Pressman said last year.

Last December, the company selected Ultra Violet, a “dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade” – inspired by Prince and reminiscent of grape soda – as its colour of the year for 2018.

A company executive noted at the time that the colour combined blue and red, “two shades that are seemingly diametrically opposed”.

For some, the announcement read as a coded call for bipartisanship in a period of political polarisation in the United States.

Previous announcements have been less subtle: In 2017, the colour of the year was Greenery, a bright spring green that Pantone suggested would “provide us with the hope we collectively yearn for amid a complex social and political landscape”.

The year before that, the institute chose two hues – a baby blue and a pale pink – citing “societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity”.

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Living Coral was chosen because it conveys a sense of optimism.

“In reaction to the onslaught of digital technology and social media increasingly embedding into daily life, we are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy,” the company said, suggesting that the orange-pink hue would offer “comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment”.

The tropical-inspired colour choice deliberately evokes undersea coral reefs, which are rapidly disappearing because of climate change. Speaking to Quartz, Pressman said that the environment had been the company’s “overriding influence” this year.

Previous years’ choices have been divisive: Ultra Violet, last year’s selection, was derided by commenters on the home decorating blog Apartment Therapy as “Barney-tastic” and “the absolute ‘it’ colour to paint your room in the sixth grade”.

As for Greenery, the colour of the year for 2017, one interior decorator told The Washington Post that it was “a bit acidic and would not be my choice for a wall colour and would be unflattering with some skin tones”.

The early reaction to Living Coral has been positive so far – Glamour called it a “fantastic make-up shade”, while GQ suggested that the warm, mellow hue “will cheer you up”.

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The saturated tone complements most skin colours, Fast Company noted, adding that coral invokes 1950s and 1960s Americana “without the patriotic baggage of red, white, and blue”.

Will it solve the problems of the world? Probably not. But Pressman described the colour as providing a sense of “emotional nourishment”.

“It’s a big hug,” she said.

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