Valentine's Day wasn't always about the pearly pinks and rosy reds. Well, one of the two has shown up every decade almost since the culmination of "Single Awareness Day," but there have been quite a few unexpected players in the Hallmark holiday. For instance, in the 1890s, you'd likely see more gifts and cutesy greetings in neutral browns and goldenrod than you would royal blue or grey (which make an appearance in the 1950s).
The Valentine's Day palette of the 1890s.Color swatches via Brandisty Valentine's Day colors from the 1950's
We caught up with Leatrice Eiseman, author and the Executive Director at the Pantone Color Institute to tell us a bit more about the changing colors of Valentine's Day and her own personal palette for the holiday (whom we chatted with last year at the 2013 International Home + Housewares Show). See what she had to say:
Core77: If you had to define your own Valentine's Day color palette, how would you describe it and which colors would you choose?
In my book Color Messages and Meanings, I illustrate how to use color combinations specifically for packaging, print and web design to create a mood. Falling under Provocative are a variety of different combinations all of which include "come-hither" colors that cajole the user into what psychologists would refer to as a "high arousal mode." Advancing forward in the line of vision, a range of colors that prove to stimulate appetites of all kinds in energetic red based shades of cherry, tangerine, cranberry, raspberry, sparkling grape and sno-cone purple. This fresh and modern approach to Valentine's Day is fun-loving, titillating, flavorful and a little bit flirty—the perfect recipe for a romantic day.
My palette might change ever so slightly if I were going to create this same radiant mood within a home environment. Here I may look to the shades in our PANTONE fashion, home & interiors palette called Hot Pink, Pink Flambé, Lipstick Red, Sunset Purple and Orchid Bloom. A wonderful compendium of red, pinks and purple tones that speak of heat, intensity and passion.
From L to R: Hot Pink, Orchid Bloom, Pink Flambé, Sunset Purple and Lipstick Red
Can you give us some insight into why the color palette for Valentine's Day has changed so much?
Color tastes and styles transition over time so it is no surprise that palette choices for Valentine's Day would also be different. The color choices we make are often a direct reflection of the times in which we live as they speak to our attitudes, values and ideals. As I note in my recent book, Pantone, The 20th Century in Color, the context within which color unfurls its rainbow of symbolism and emotion is an outline of history itself.
Why do you think that we've gravitated toward pinks and rosy reds in more recent years as opposed to the bold primary colors of the 1950s Valentine's Day cards?
Color is contextual. In the 1950s, much of the world moved from rationing and recovery to optimism and abundance. A rosy economic glow combined with advances in color technology at the movies, new modernist design philosophies as well as a manufacturing boom gave rise to a focus on new colors for a new era. Color choices spoke to an overall feeling of exuberance and confidence.
Today, with so many more advances in technology, materials and finishes since that time, we have a much wider variety of colors to choose from and while we are still hopeful and optimistic, we are not as bold. As such, our colors choices reflect a degree of economic uncertainty and while we are desirous of the traditional reds and pinks, as people become exposed to the possibilities of color and accustomed to using color they are becoming more educated and are looking to more sophisticated levels of color in their color statements.
The Valentine's Day palette of the 1960's The Valentine's Day color palette of the 2000's
What color would you like to see picked up by the masses for Valentine's Day?
Red-infused purples would be an interesting choice for Valentine's Day. Purple shades have become bigger and bolder and with Downton Abbey being the #1 television show around the world, both sexes have taken to the magical and mystical purple shades. Similar to bright reds and shocking pinks, red-infused purples are hot, passionate and exciting. In this time where creativity and a sense of being unique is so highly valued, a red violet shade has the ability to convey a message of romance but gives it that slight bit of difference so the giver stands out from all the rest.
What about the emotional connections and physical reactions that come with the different colors?
Throughout history red has been used to evoke love and passion. Bright pinks, especially the more shocking and fuchsia pink shades have much of the same dynamism as vibrant reds and just as with the reds are symbolic of sexual energy. Instant attention getters, both the reds and bright pinks produce similar physiological responses; increased pulse rates, enhanced sensitivity to smell and taste and a rise in our hormone levels. All of which makes these exciting reds and pink tones ideal for our international day of romance, Valentine's Day.